Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Food: A Slow Vegetable Start

Our meals were pretty lacking in the vegetable department in the beginning of the week. Luckily, the MiL saved me mid-week. Thanks, MiL!


Short version: For the home team--tuna melts. For the away team--tuna salad and egg salad. For me-- leftovers. For everyone--cucumbers.

Long version: A. took Cubby to his First Communion practice at 4:30 p.m. and then to his baseball game at 6 p.m., so I packed dinner for them to eat in between. An egg salad sandwich for Cubby, and tuna salad for A., with cucumber slices for both.

Jack and Charlie had tuna melts and cucumber slices with the last of the ranch dip. Or rather, almost the last of it. Jack actually finished it off by the simple expedient of swiping his entire hand in the bowl and then licking it off his hand. Gross.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, oven fries, sauteed mushrooms and onions, green salad

Long version: I always cut fries pretty thick, to make steak fries. This time I didn't have any lard or tallow, which is a bummer when french-fry making, so I coated them in olive oil and a little butter. This resulted in a rather tough fry, but still tasty.

I know they were tasty because I had some. Poppy's eczema was improved after I backed off on everything again, so I decided to add back the nightshades to my diet. Thus, I ate some of the fries AND ketchup on my (cheese-less, because still no dairy) hamburger.

The excitement around here. You have no idea.


Short version: Spaghetti with tomato sauce, salad

Long version: A. was gone again, and all I mustered for the boys was a tomato sauce with cream and Parmesan cheese for spaghetti. The children were pleased.

I had a salad with various leftover vegetables and some leftover hamburger, and I did not even bother giving the boys a vegetable. I'm gonna count the tomato sauce and call it good. They were homegrown tomatoes, which I think should make it count for extra, right? Right.

First Communion photo. We really need some help posing children for group shots . . .


Short version: Roasted chicken and potatoes, leftover broccoli

Long version: This was a challenging day. A. was still gone. Poppy was still all stuffy from the cold and gasping when she tried to nurse, as well as displeased with napping anywhere but my lap. Jack woke up with an earache that featured a fever, which meant periodic bouts of crying and a lot of cartoons. Hooray for YouTube and endless Donald Duck compilations. And we were supposed to go to two different baseball games at 6 p.m. in different locations.

I did manage to get Poppy to sleep on her own in my bed midday, so I used that time to peel and chunk up some potatoes. I put them in a bowl of water so they wouldn't brown, and then at dinnertime I just drained them, dried them quickly with a towel, and put them on a pan with cut-up chicken leg quarters (salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried basil) and some olive oil to roast. I don't usually roast potatoes in the same pan as meat, because the meat juices keep the potatoes from getting crispy, but I was trying to minimize clean-up.

In the end, only Cubby, Charlie, and I sat down to eat. Jack was still plastered to the couch and not interested in any sustenance whatsoever.

Cubby got a ride to his game with a friend on his team, and I called Charlie's coach to let him know Charlie wouldn't be at his game. I'm sure his T-ball career is going to tank now, but I think he'll survive.


Short version: London broil with green-garlic butter, sauteed onions, mashed potatoes, uneaten potato soup, green salad (with radishes!), stewed rhubarb

Long version: A. returned from his trip to Blackrock in the afternoon bringing with him many produce treats from the MiL, including lettuce, spinach, and radishes from her garden, and a garbage bag full of enormous rhubarb stalks. The rhubarb came from the Mennonite farm where we always got our eggs. They have the most impressive rhubarb I've ever seen. The stalks are literally two feet long, even without the leaves. I made a big pot of stewed rhubarb and still only used half of it. Yum.

The potato soup was for a still-ailing Jack, who elected to rest during dinner rather than eat.


Short version: Pork chops, fried leftover boiled potatoes, fried onions, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: I started to feel the onset of the household cold this day. I think dinner reflects that.

Cubby got another ride to his baseball game with his friend's mom so I could take Charlie to his game and A. could stay home with a still-unhappy, feverish Jack. If that stubborn child would have taken the children's acetaminophen, he would have felt a lot better. Alas, he would not, and the one attempt to make him resulted in gagging and vomit.


Here's a picture of Charlie hitting the ball at his game:

Charlie says, "Take that T and shove it; I hit pitches."


Short version: Fried eggs, chicken-broth rice, bread and butter, exciting spinach

Long version: At least the bread was fresh, as I had to bake a batch that afternoon. The spinach was exciting because it was the thinnings from the MiL's garden, which means ALLELUIA, homegrown greens! Not mine, sadly, but at least from someone's home garden. I didn't do anything with the tiny leaves other than wash and dry them very carefully and dress them with a mustard vinaigrette. They were delicious. Even A. remarked on it.

And now I definitely have the cold, so I shall take to my bed to rest and care for myself for a few days.

HAAAAAAHAHAHA. I kill myself. (If these kids don't kill me first.)

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Ready To Be Enchanted

Did you like my offhand comment last week about moving? I was wondering who would be the first to ask for details. It was the MiL's friend Mary. And so, to satisfy her curiosity, as well as all the other hordes of people who are dying to know (or rather, the dozen or so who might be mildly interested), I will tell you.

We are not moving to a new house in this community.

We are not moving back to Blackrock.

We are not moving anywhere in New York state.

We are moving to New Mexico.

Yup, you read that right. New Mexico. Northeastern New Mexico, to be more precise. Although not too precise, because you wouldn't know where this place was even if I told you, and, well, I'm not going to tell you.

I know. Mean. Just trust me when I tell you that you've never heard of it and that it is the middle of nowhere. Even more rural than where we are now. For example, the nearest Walmart is 88 miles away. I have no idea how far the nearest Target is. Probably closer to 200 miles.

Good thing I hate to shop.

So why New Mexico? Because it borders Arizona, where 80% of our children's grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins now live. We didn't want to live in Arizona particularly, though, and definitely not in southern Arizona. Too hot.

Our new home is at 6,000 feet, which means that it has four seasons. Even snow, though nothing like here, obviously.

We're renting a house in the village--official population: 94*, soon to be 100--to start with. The kids' new school has 50 students in pre-K through 12. None of those numbers are missing a digit.

It will be by far the smallest place I've ever lived. But it will undoubtedly also be an adventure.

Land of Enchantment, here we come.

* Edited to add: As Drew cleverly noticed, I did indeed first put 96. I realized this at about 2 a.m. after posting, when my proofreader brain suddenly thought, "Wait, did I write 94 or 96? I think it was 96. Damn. I'll fix it when I get up." The reason I originally wrote 96 is because my brain is conscious at 2 a.m. (and many other times during the night) instead of sleeping. But thanks for the eagle eye, Drew. I commend your careful reading and advanced math skills.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Definition of Family-Friendly

Cubby is receiving his first communion today and so, in celebration, we all went out to breakfast at our local diner. We've been to this diner before, and I'm not a huge fan of their food, but they have a Sunday breakfast buffet that we thought the kids would like. Cubby loves eating at restaurants but very, very rarely gets to do so.

Buffets are good for kids because there's no delay in getting the food and the options are all visually laid out, so the decision-making is fast. Plus, if they don't like what they choose, they can just get something else.

I normally avoid eating out with my children not only because it's expensive and not particularly tasty, but because I always worry about my numerous and, ahem, rambunctious children bothering the other customers. They're usually pretty well behaved, but they are restless and energetic and prone to roaming.

Luckily, that is not a concern at this particular establishment.

When we arrived, A. pointed out the small "Breastfeeding Welcome Here" sign on the door. I didn't need to nurse Poppy while we were there, but it's nice to know where they stand on public nursing.

Our table was near a large table of older people who immediately homed in on Poppy, who was hanging out with me at the table while A. was helping the boys choose their food. I smiled politely back at the smiling elders, and one of the ladies came right over and asked if she could borrow the baby.

I wasn't sure Poppy would be okay with it, but after a moment of brow-furrowing contemplation, she accepted that this lady could be trusted. The woman told me she had had two sons, two grandsons, and two great-grandsons, but no girls in the family. Then she brought Poppy over to introduce her to the other people in her group.

And there Poppy stayed while I cut up French toast for the boys, filled orange juice glasses, and ate my own food. The lady only brought her back to me when her party was leaving. She told me I had made her day.

Likewise, ma'am.

Jack spent his time wandering between the fish tank and the collection of little bobbing toys they had near the cash register. Every single person who encountered him smiled indulgently and talked to him about the fish and the toys.

Everyone ate as much as they wanted, helped themselves to gumballs when they discovered the machine wasn't working properly and didn't require quarters (and the lady at the cash register wouldn't let me pay her for them), and left full and happy. Plus, the bill only came to $31 for all five of us.

Success. Now for church . . .

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Food: In Which We Just Keep Eating

And so, I keep cooking. Thusly . . .


Short version: Beef soft tacos, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: I had two small neck roasts and one tiiiiny flat-cut brisket left from our half cow. The neck roasts had too many bones in them to do anything but simmer them until I could pull the meat away from the bones. There's no carving a neck roast.

So I just dumped the three pieces of meat in my enameled dutch oven with a piece of onion and some salt, barely covered with water, and simmered until they were tender. Then I pulled them out, drained off the resulting beef broth for future use, and pulled the meat into pieces to fry in tallow with chili powder, cumin, and some green garlic from some of the many garlic bulbs A. planted last fall.

We ate the meat in corn tortillas with sour cream, cheese, lettuce, and salsa. Or rather, everyone else did. I had mine in a salad.


Short version: Non-charred lamb ribs, baked potatoes, carrot sticks with ranch dressing, green salad, stewed rhubarb

Long version: A. did not send the grill up in flames this time when he made the last package of lamb ribs. Success! He raved over them, and the boys competed to see who could eat the most. And then their hands were so covered in lamb fat that I had to turn the door knob for them when they went outside to get sticks to roast marshmallows over a fire. No one left the table hungry, at least.

I put the potatoes in the oven while the lamb ribs were doing their initial slow cooking in the oven, along with some rhubarb the MiL had sent up from her plant. We have a rhubarb plant here, but it's very small and has barely started growing. And I do love rhubarb. Thanks, MiL!

I had a salad again, with the remaining leftover taco meat, 'cause Mama don't do lamb ribs.


Short version: Celebratory Italian sausage, fried garlic bread, pan-fried sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions

Long version: Yes, I cooked my own Mother's Day meal. It's just easier that way. I made the bread by taking out the sausage from its cooking skillet, draining the grease, and using that skillet to fry thick pieces of bread with butter and garlic powder spread on them. I took a very small taste. They were really good. Obviously.

And now! A Mother's Day photo:

When this is the best mommy+kids photo we can manage, you know it's a challenge.


Short version: Country-style pork ribs, boiled potatoes, cucumbers with ranch dip, fried cabbage and onions

Long version: A. made the ribs on the grill, the way they are meant to be (paprika, garlic powder, salt). Charlie, covered in orange grease and working on his second enormous rib, announced with satisfaction, "Now this is a prime dinner." Indeed.


Short version: Bland meat, bland rice, bland broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes and onion, curried potato soup

Long version: I had two packages of beef stew meat left, which--thanks to sick, fussy baby and sick, fussy toddler and sick 8-year-old home from school--I just dumped in my biggest skillet and simmered with water, onion, and a bay leaf until they were tender. Then I put them on a pan and broiled them in the oven to get crispy with olive oil and garlic powder. They needed to be fried in tallow with a ton of fresh garlic, but I didn't have any tallow, and I was lazy, so they were bland. And dry. Bah.

I made the rice with the remainder of the beef stock from Friday. It needed more salt.

I didn't add anything to the steamed broccoli except salt. Why break my bland streak now, right?

I made the potato soup with some of the roasted onions, diced potatoes, the liquid from cooking the beef, curry powder, and a little sour cream. Cubby ate three mugs full and then retired to the couch to moan some more that his head still hurt, and now his stomach did too.

All of this made way too many dishes, which made it a doubly disappointing meal.


Short version: Cornell chicken, boiled potatoes with green garlic, sauteed mushrooms with green garlic, carrot sticks with ranch dip, The Nourishment

Long version: Cornell chicken is a New York State thing, and one of my favorite chicken dishes. Probably because the marinade is mostly vinegar. I'd never made it at home, but it's dead simple, and I will be making it again. Chicken always takes way longer on a grill than you think it will, so I always plan on it cooking at least 45 minutes longer than I think it should. This time, with whole legs, it took almost two hours.

Luckily, A. had company while he was grilling.

Yes, my daughter's shirt says and has a picture of a truck. Gender-bending clothing is her lot in life.

When A. was a boy, his pediatrician was an Italian immigrant who propounded the miraculous curative properties of garlic. In honor of Dr. Gioia, I treated A.'s cold with green garlic in both the mushrooms and potatoes. Charlie also ate the green part of the garlic plant (I only used the white part) and then ran around exclaiming, "I feel like I'm breathing fire!" I bet.

The Nourishment is a baked custard recipe from The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. I've been making it for years, and it's A.'s most-requested food when he's sick. Cubby and Charlie can put away astonishing quantities of it, too. Jack doesn't like it much. Oh well. More for the others.


Short version: Pork chops, pan-fried sweet potatoes, fried cabbage and onions, steamed broccoli, cornbread

Long version: I made it; they ate it; the week is over, hooray. (That was the shorter version, actually.)

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Clearing Away the Straws

I find that when I have days like yesterday--days in which it feels as if it's all too much--it's the small things that really seem as if they will break me.

The straws, if you will.

In this scenario, I am the camel.

During yesterday morning's little pity party, it was spoons.

We had no clean spoons. This is a sure indicator of sickness in the house, what with all the tea drinking and soft-food eating. So every time I would open up the silverware drawer to get a spoon for administering yet another spoonful of honey to a coughing child, I would confront the devastating fact that we had no clean spoons.

And then my dramatic internal monologue would go something like this, "WHY IS MY LIFE SO TERRIBLE? WHY IS EVERYTHING SO HARD? WHY CAN'T I JUST FIND A CLEAN SPOON?" (All caps in my head, yes.)

Luckily, I am old enough to have learned a few things in my time on this Earth (38 years brings a lot of wisdom, obviously). And one of the things I have learned to do is, first, stop thinking in all caps. That never helps anything. And second, to ask myself, "What can I do right now, this very second, to make things better?"

The answer is almost always something very small. I can pick up the living room, because the fireman's hat in the middle of the floor has been tripping me up every time I go to the kitchen. I can take Poppy and Jack outside, because everyone's always happier outside.

Or, as I did yesterday, I can wash some spoons.

So I did. I washed some mugs, too, while I was at it, because those were all dirty too. And just like that, one small straw that was threatening to crush me had been removed and things seemed more manageable.

Obviously there are many large things that have yet to be resolved (I see you, disorganized closets* that need to be packed up) and other things that I just can't do anything about (sick children waking up over and over), but clean spoons are a start.

* Funny thing: After years of wishing for closets while living at closet-less Blackrock, I am now of the opinion that closets are nothing but a black hole for disorganized junk and I don't actually like them much.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Whelming Is Close To Over Levels

Five out of the six members of the family are now sick with a nasty cold. I am the sole holdout, which I suppose I should be thankful for, since I would still be up all night with the sick baby and toddler, preparing tea and soup, and generally coddling all the sick ones even if I were sick myself.

I am very tired.

Poppy had another eczema flare-up. The only thing I had started eating regularly again was eggs. So either she's allergic to eggs, or it has nothing to do with what I'm eating. On the off chance that it really is what I'm eating, now I have to go back to meat and vegetables (almost literally ad nauseam)to see if it helps.

Baseball season rages on, with games or practices six days a week after early dinners. Though at least when kids are sick I have a good excuse to skip some of the games.

We're moving in five weeks. I have all of three boxes packed, and I am at something of a loss as to how I'm supposed to pack everything else and get this rental house clean with four small destroyers on the loose at all times.

It will happen, though. Somehow. The colds will go away; the eczema will eventually clear up; baseball season and school will end (at almost exactly the same time); and we will pack all our belongings into a truck and drive away.

I just have to get from here to there. Send some positive vibes my way, okay? Thanks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Poor Old Pincushion

Yesterday morning Jack, Poppy, and I were just returning from our walk when I heard A. exclaim, "Oh no! Mia got into a porcupine!"

Oh no, indeed.

Not only had she encountered a porcupine, she apparently tried to bite it. I know this because she had at least two dozen quills all over her nose and inside her mouth. She couldn't close her mouth, and she was dripping saliva and blood all over. It was gruesome.

It got a lot more gruesome when A. started pulling the quills out and the blood started coming faster. I pulled out a few that were in her feet, and I was shocked at how thick and stiff the quills were, as well as deeply embedded. My previous experience had been with removing cactus spines from our dog in Arizona. This was much, much worse.

After a few minutes trying to remove them ourselves with hands, tweezers, and pliers, I asked A. to just take her to the veterinarian in the village. He put her in the car and took off, not even calling first. Three hours and $80 later, Mia was back home and weaving drunkenly around as she worked off the last of the anesthetic.

And through all of that, she didn't make a single sound or try to bite. Still the best dog.

She appears to be fully recovered this morning. I think she's learned her lesson about porcupines. I just hope she doesn't encounter a bear next.