Sunday, March 18, 2018

Some Pig

I spent my afternoon sitting in a chair with a snotty, snoring baby on my lap, because that is where she finally fell asleep and I was afraid she would wake up if I got up. I sat there for three and a half hours, getting up only once for about two minutes to let the dog in, take the meat out of the oven, and pee.

I could do this--and Poppy could sleep peacefully in my lap in the living room--because A. took the boys to the circus. It's a small traveling circus that does a performance every year in the school gymnasium. It's apparently a pretty good circus. Last year, Cubby and Charlie went with A. and came home with a picture of the two of them with a python draped around their shoulders.

Better them than me.

This year the python wasn't in attendance, but Roscoe the pig was. In a fun coincidence, today was Roscoe's birthday. He turned five.

He's big for his age.

Jack loved the pig and ran right up to it. Charlie was not such a fan. A. mentioned that Roscoe seems to relish his life as a circus performer, perhaps because of all the spilled popcorn he gets to eat.

I would have liked to have seen the circus, but I probably would have had a similar reaction to Charlie's when faced with a large pig on a pedestal, so I suppose it's for the best that I stayed home.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Food: Dwindling Provisions

I started out the week with limited fresh produce, and it didn't get any better from there. That is why we ate carrots in some form almost every day this week. And why I currently only have one carrot, two stalks of celery, and frozen peas left. It's even worse than the last time I was running low.


Short version: Grilled cheese sandwiches, vegetable soup, ice cream

Long version: I trust you are all familiar with grilled cheese sandwiches.

The vegetable soup was a boring-but-tasty mix of onion, already-roasted garlic, carrots, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, and peas, plus beef broth from the freezer.

After dinner the boys all had haircuts--buzzcuts, that is--with the promise of ice cream after they were all bathed and de-haired. The best part of haircuts for them is they get to have dessert afterwards while wearing their pajamas.

I encourage cultivating low standards in children. Makes it easy to generate excitement.


Short version: Sirloin steak, pasta with tomato sauce, boring broccoli

Long version: I know! Sirloin steak instead of ribeye! Such variety! The sirloin was from the half cow we got when Poppy was born, and that is almost gone. (It was a really small cow.) I ate my steak in a salad with random leftover cooked vegetables.

The tomato sauce for the pasta was left over from last week. Instead of grating Parmesan for it--why is grating Parmesan cheese such a daunting task?--I stirred in a little heavy cream.

The broccoli was just steamed. Butter, salt, whatever. Boring.


Short version: Stir fry and rice

Long version: Not being a fan of leftover meat, I usually try to disguise it with some sort of strong sauce. In this case, a peanut stir fry sauce. My standard stir fry sauce is soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, some sort of sugar (this time I used a little of an almost-used-up jar of peach preserves), and powdered ginger, plus corn starch for thickening. I'm out of cornstarch, though, so I used the peanut butter to make it thick. And delicious, because peanut butter makes anything delicious.

The only vegetables I had were onions, carrots, and broccoli, but I cut the carrots into matchsticks instead of rounds, so, you know, points for fanciness. Add the leftover chopped sirloin steak and some basmati rice for the kids, and that's dinner.


Short version: Pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, potato soup, stewed rhubarb

Long version: I had one piece left of an enormous picnic roast A. bought a few weeks ago (are you seeing a theme of A. and giant pieces meat?) and cut into three pieces. I chunked up an onion to put on the bottom of my enameled Dutch oven, put the still solidly frozen pork on top of that, poured on a little juice from a half-used can of tomatoes, added salt and pepper, and put it in a 300-degree oven for a few hours.

Haute cuisine, here we come.

While I was at it, I dumped a bag of frozen chopped rhubarb from last spring into a Pyrex dish, added brown sugar and maple syrup to it, and put that in the oven to stew. The thing with rhubarb is, you always need more sweetening than you think you do. If you're asking yourself if there's enough sugar, there isn't. If you think you put too much sugar in it, add more. I love rhubarb, but it takes a LOT of sugar. This time we ate it with heavy cream, but vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt is also good.

Making coleslaw makes a damn mess, because of the grating of the cabbage and carrots, but I absolutely must have coleslaw with pulled pork if it's at all possible. I only had a quarter of a medium-sized cabbage left, so it was a small batch. To that, I added two grated carrots, a small amount of very finely diced onion, and the life-changing coleslaw dressing that I will share with you: One cup buttermilk or plain whole yogurt, 1.5 tablespoons each of mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar, about a quarter teaspoon of celery seed, and enough salt and pepper. Be sure to use enough salt. That's a half recipe for the small batch I made, which was about four cups of grated vegetables.

I've been making this coleslaw for years from a recipe in the book Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman. It is, bar none, the best coleslaw ever. Every person I've ever made it for has asked for the recipe. This was the first time I used yogurt instead of buttermilk, because I can't seem to find buttermilk in stores anymore but I always have yogurt. It wasn't quite as good, but still tasty. You just have to make sure you get the right balance of sugar, vinegar, and salt. That's what makes it so good. I can, and will, just drink the buttermilk dressing straight. Yum.

So at dinnertime all I had to do was shred the meat and add barbecue sauce. I've made my own barbecue sauce before, but I like this local-ish Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce (with the unfortunate name of Sensuous Slathering Sauce) so much, that I don't bother making it anymore.

I made the potato soup because Cubby came home complaining of a sore throat, and he always wants soup when he's sick. I had limited ingredients on hand to make soup, so I ended up boiling some diced potatoes in the liquid from cooking the pork, then adding some roasted garlic I had on hand, mashing up the potatoes, and adding sour cream. It was tasty, if unexciting. Cubby took a bite, made a sulky face, and said, "Did you even put anything in this? I can't taste anything." Pardon me? He ate it anyway, because he knows what's good for him. And what's good for him is not ticking off the cook. He liked it better the next day for lunch, when I added curry powder.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: Pulled pork, coleslaw, rice, broccoli . . . you know. Leftovers.

And now, a break for a completely unrelated photo of Charlie and Jack being ninjas:

My brother actually made and sent a video tutorial on how to turn your t-shirt into a ninja mask. This is the result. Judo CHOP!


Short version: Ribeye steaks, mashed potatoes, frozen peas, sauerkraut

Long version: Yes, ribeye steaks again. I told you it was a huge piece of cow.

I put an already-roasted clove of garlic into the mashed potatoes, and man, they were good.

Frozen peas and sauerkraut because that was pretty much my only option. No paradox of choice here!


Short version: It's up to the weather

Long version: If I don't make it to the grocery store today, I have three eggs, one can of tuna, potatoes, and cheese with which to make a meatless Lenten meal. Plus frozen peas for a vegetable. If I DO make it to the store today, then the world is my oyster. Or rather, my stir-fry. We shall see.

Okay! How about you this week, my lovelies? What'd you eat?

Edited to add: If you're looking for something to make for St. Patrick's Day (besides corned beef, which we will not be having because I didn't corn a brisket and no longer bother with store-bought, even when I can get to the store), you could try this American Irish Soda Bread from King Arthur Flour. Apparently, traditional Irish soda bread is only flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. The American version with butter and sugar is more appealing to me, and anyway St. Patrick's Day is an American invention. I've made it twice this week--once for us and once for Cubby's St. Patrick's Day party at school. I used the milk+yogurt substitution for buttermilk, and I didn't bother with all that nonsense with making a moat to drizzle milk and sprinkle with sugar. Just sprinkle the sugar right on top. The dough is wet enough. That moat business looks to me like a Cook's Illustrated instruction. And I don't mean that as a compliment.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Enter Wind, Stage North

The snow actually coming down from the sky has slowed, but not stopped. Now the wind is howling, which means drifting, and a lot of it.

The front steps are under there somewhere.

School was delayed for two hours this morning, though I'm not sure that's enough time to dig out from this. Especially because the wind isn't supposed to stop for days.

Thankfully, everyone slept in this morning. Well, everyone except Poppy. Let's not be silly. She was awake at 5 a.m. 

We had lots of bonding time before the next child emerged at 7 a.m. That was Charlie, who informed me he had caught Cubby's cold.

He is thoughtfully keeping his distance from the baby, but it's only a matter of time before I'm suctioning her nose out again.

His insane behavior this morning, however, tells me he's not at death's door, so both he and Cubby are at school. A. very nicely shoveled a path through the drifts so they could get to the road to catch the bus. 

So now it's just me and the tiny crew. And the drifting snow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Slogging Along

Hey, look! It's March 14th! Must be time for an enormous, depressing snowstorm!*


Although we don't really expect spring on the Canadian border in March, that's still an unpleasant sight to wake up to. Kind of over it.

Mia thinks so, too. To my knowledge, she has yet to leave the porch to take advantage of the latrine area A. cleared for her.

I can't blame her. I wouldn't want to squat in a foot of snow to pee, either.

It's still snowing now, and is supposed to continue all day. Cubby and Charlie of course don't have school, so Cubby decided to make everyone eggs for a second breakfast. They went through ten eggs between the three boys.

All that snow makes for a powerful appetite.

Meanwhile, Eczema Baby continues to demand satisfaction for her own powerful appetite.

She also continues to grow her cheeks at a rapid pace.

And that's the news from the frozen snow globe that is our house. Over and out.

* Although, thankfully, not as big as last year's apocalyptic March storm that also, interestingly, started on March 14th.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Practically Health Food

Currently in my refrigerator is a six-pack of Chillin' Cherry Squeezers. I guess you would call them juice? I think they're a juice product in the same way Velveeta is a cheese product.

The reason they're in there is because A. stopped to help an old lady shovel her driveway last week after a pretty good snowstorm, and she decided to thank him by bringing by Skittles, M&Ms, and the Squeezers for the children.

Apparently, neighborly snow removal=sugary thank-you gift.


The drink is, of course, disgusting. Jack got to try some with his lunch and it smells exactly like cough syrup. I didn't taste it personally. The smell was enough for me. Cubby, who has an active and vocal loathing of anything flavored with artificial cherry, is going to be very disappointed.

Anyway again.

The hilarious thing about this beverage, though, is the two prominently displayed announcements on the packaging that proclaim "certified gluten free" and "no high fructose corn syrup*."

Well! Practically a health food!

Despite these obviously superior health benefits, however, I think we'll stick with milk.

* It has sucralose in it instead. Plus a hell of a lot of food dye.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Food: Beef for Days

One of the inevitable results of buying meat a whole (pig) or half (cow) at a time, is that you end up with a lot of one kind of meat in your freezer, and not much variety. At least, we do. Someday when the children are bigger and we're eating even more than we are now (eek), I'll probably have two freezers and therefore enough space to buy whole pigs and cows at a time, and then we'll have both pork and beef. At the moment, however, it's almost all beef, with some supplemental grocery store pork.

And now, let us jump right into the feeding trough. So to speak.


Short version: Ribeye steaks, onion, rice, broccoli with cheese

Long version: More of the ribeye steaks that I hacked off the ridiculous log of cow flesh A. brought home last week. Except this time I cooked them on my cast iron griddle in the house, which has a grill on the other side. Still good, if not quite as deliciously smokey. I had a little room left on the griddle, which I filled with thick slices of onion. In my experience, you will never be sorry if you cook some onion.

The rice was left over from the previous week.

The broccoli was steamed, and then I drained it and threw some butter and cheddar cheese pieces in the pot and covered it to let the cheese melt. I had plans to make an actual cheese sauce, which is much better, but then the Subaru broke down entirely a couple of miles from the house (luckily, only A. was in it at the time) and I was dealing with roadside assistance and tow trucks, so no cheese sauce. No baked apples for the same reason. Boo on many levels.


Short version: Carnitas, black beans, carrots

Long version: The boys ate their meat in corn tortillas with cheese, beans, lettuce, and sour cream. A. and I ate our meat with all those things plus salsa, as a salad. If you have never had the joy of consuming a carnitas salad, I urge you to do so at the first opportunity. Delicious.

The carrots were just random chunks I threw on top of the meat to steam, so we would have a vegetable besides lettuce. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask A. to get the big bag of carrots from Quebec (our local store carries several kinds of produce from there, since it's just over the border) when he went to the grocery store for me, so he got the standard Green Giant carrots from California and they taste like bleach. Even when they're cooked. Gross.

The beans are Goya brand in cans (the only kind I'll buy), drained and heated up in the microwave with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and vinegar. Yes, I know I should cook my own beans instead of buying them in cans. I don't.

This guy helped me finish up the leftover meat the next day for lunch. I had another salad, he had another taco, and both of us were very happy.


Short version: Un-American goulash with carrots, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, frozen peas

Long version: American goulash is a pasta dish with ground beef. My goulash is beef cubes with a ton of onions and paprika, plus tomatoes. I add carrot chunks about halfway through the cooking, too, and sour cream at the end. I used to always add the sauerkraut to the goulash, but certain of my offspring are displeased with that addition, so now I serve it separately. This was the last jar of sauerkraut from last year. Sad.

I always add some sour cream or buttermilk to my mashed potatoes, for a little bit of tang. Not that it matters to me, since I rarely eat them anymore. Also sad.

And we eat a lot of frozen peas. So convenient, so easy to stock up on and have on hand, and so palatable to every member of the family.


Short version: Pork chops, fried cabbage/carrots/onion, leftover rice and mashed potatoes, microwave baked apples

Long version: Charlie's favorite thing is "meat with lots of pafreaka." That would be "paprika," but he says it that way because, "I freak out when we have it." Right. So pork chops in our house always have lots of paprika on them. A. cooked them this time, so I'm not sure what else he put on them. I always also put on lots of garlic powder and salt and pepper. For years, I didn't season pork chops enough and didn't really like them. I now know they take a lot of seasoning.

The cabbage mixture was thinly sliced cabbage and onions and shredded carrots cooked slowly in a lot of butter, until a little bit caramelized. My mom made this when she was here after Poppy was born, and now I make it frequently, too. Proof you're never too old to learn from your mother. Too bad it still tasted faintly of bleach because of the carrots.

I only had a little left of both the rice and the potatoes, so the boys got to have small portions of each. Cubby was delighted to have both rice and potatoes. That boy sure does love his starches. Definitely his mother's child.

I make baked apples in the microwave if the oven isn't on already for something else. I don't think they're quite as good, but certainly still enjoyable with cream. What isn't, right?


Short version: Bacon cheeseburgers, random eggs, vegetable soup, cheddar cheese, bread and butter

Long version: The last package of ground beef was pretty small and only made five small hamburgers. A. probably could have eaten them all himself, but as we all needed to eat, I also made bacon and a couple of eggs for him, so he could make his alarming Towers of Power.

The vegetable soup was the standard mix of vegetables--onion, garlic, celery, carrots (damn Chlorox carrots again--gotta use 'em up), mushrooms, cabbage and green peas--but instead of broth and tomatoes, I used the remaining liquid from the goulash, out of which almost all the meat and carrots had already been eaten. It was a good combination, actually. I ate soup plus cheese instead of hamburgers, as did Cubby. Everyone else had a small amount of soup and the hamburger patties. And everyone got one piece of bacon.

Bread and butter is just what it sounds like: A cop-out when I need a starch for the children (A. and I typically don't eat this part of the meal), but don't want to dirty another pot or make anything else. At least it's homemade bread, so I did put in the effort at some point in the past. But still . . . bread and butter. Yup.


Short version: Ribeye steaks, pasta with tomato sauce, roasted butternut squash/onions/garlic, salad, baked apples

Long version: Yes, ribeye steaks again. A. told me that if I were somehow not around and he was in charge of cooking, he would just keep one of those whole ribeyes in the refrigerator to cut off steaks to eat, fry them in a cast iron skillet, and eat them with his hands. Then there would be no dishes except the skillet, which can be re-used without washing. He was completely serious.

Luckily for the children, I am not such a savage, so they got to have pasta with their steak. I even generously grated Parmesan cheese for it, which I don't always bother with. The tomato sauce used up the last half of a jar of tomatoes I canned last summer. I didn't take the skins off before I canned them, but I found that I can pop the skins off pretty easily when I'm cooking them. Still, I prefer my food to be as prepped as possible before I start cooking with it, so in the future when I'm not pregnant and don't have a toddler underfoot, I'll probably peel them before canning.

Anyway, I threw the tomatoes in a dish with some olive oil, a bay leaf, and basil and shoved it in the oven, which was on to roast the butternut squash. When the tomatoes had reduced, I mashed them with a potato masher and added some balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic (more on that later).

I also put an onion with the squash (remember, if you have room in a pan, always fill it with onion), plus four heads of garlic. A. had requested I roast some next time I was roasting something else. The garlic isn't going to last much longer, so I did a bunch. Also the apples, because the oven was on and I have quite a few left in the big box of utility apples A. brought home. They won't last much longer, either.

The salad was romaine hearts (the only leaf lettuce available at the store in non-bag form and man, I am really missing homegrown lettuce now) with homemade ranch dressing, which means it was a salad really only in the academic sense. I added the roasted vegetables and some of the steak to mine. A. slathered his first steak with the roasted garlic and his second with the tomato sauce. So obviously he doesn't mind when I bother with more than hunks of meat, even if he wouldn't.


Short version: The Church says no ribeye for you.

Long version: I am not a menu planner, so my dinner plan tends to evolve over the course of the day (or devolve, depending on how challenging the day is). I have more of the tomato sauce, so maybe I'll make all the children's dreams come true and give them pasta two nights in a row. Crazy indulgence. Then again, I have to bake bread this afternoon, so I could also give them fresh bread.  I could make cheesy omelets, or I may go even lazier and just scramble a whole lot of eggs (sixteen at a time for the five of us, which is why we go through five dozen in a week). I might steam some broccoli, or maybe again be lazy and throw some more frozen peas in the microwave. One way or another, though, I'll cook and we'll eat. It's as certain as the sun rising and setting.

Your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Typical Photo Shoot

Every once in awhile I think, "Man, I really need to take some new pictures of the baby. Poor fourth child. Her infancy is going undocumented."

So I find the cell phone (no real camera anymore, though I'm probably going to get one soon because I hate using a phone that half the time isn't charged or that I can't find) and set the baby up somewhere. And then this happens . . .

The first step is actually getting her to look at the camera. I would say sit up straight, but her core strength isn't really there yet. She can barely stay propped up.

We have eye contact! Maybe we can coax a smile out of her.

Not the expression I was going for.

Then Jack and his giant head arrive, and it's all over.

A pretty accurate photographic portrayal of her life, now that I think about it.