Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Typical

At 8:15 this morning, I had already been awake for three hours (thanks a heap, Charlie) and was at that moment standing at the stove cooking A.'s scrambled eggs. I had already fried eggs for myself and the children. My own breakfast had been sitting on the counter for ten minutes while I made A.'s breakfast and also doctored Charlie after his toe had an unfortunate encounter with A.'s chair.

A. was sitting at the table drinking his coffee with the kids while they ate their breakfasts. Cubby piped up with, "Oh, poor Daddy doesn't have any breakfast."

"That's right," said A. "Do you feel sorry for Daddy?"

"Yes," said Cubby.

The MiL, from across the kitchen, chimed in with, "Do you feel sorry for Grandma?"

"Yes," said Cubby.

Then A. asked, "Do you feel sorry for Mommy?"

"No," said Cubby.

Ingrates, the lot of them.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jerky+Fat=A.'s Salvation

It may have come up a time or two around here that my husband is what you might call a serious carnivore. Very serious. He eats a lot of meat. And that meat is not lean, either. He actively seeks out the fat on the meat. He points out, with some justification, that if a person isn't eating sugars or carbohydrates, then the only high-calorie food left is fat. And he's a big, muscular dude who does frequent manual labor, so he needs the calories.

Hence, the fat.

For this reason, he's been interested in the making of pemmican for some time now. Pemmican is a traditional Native American food made for hunting trips and other long journeys during which a lot of calories in a portable form was paramount. The Native Americans made it traditionally from lean game meat, like buffalo, which they smoked over fires to make jerky. This was then ground up--presumably with something like a mortar and pestle--and mixed with an equal amount of melted animal fat.

That's it. Smoked lean meat and fat. No salt, no flavorings, no nothing. Except sometimes berries.

A. thought this sounded great. I thought it sounded revolting. That's why this particular experiment was all him.

We recently purchased half a cow for our freezer, so there was no shortage of raw ingredients to start with. A. started by rendering the suet (the fat as it comes off the cow) into tallow (the strained, purified fat). I helped with this, as I have some experience with it and I needed some more for my own use anyway.

Then A. cut up a five-pound bottom round roast into strips, laboriously threaded each strip onto a toothpick, and hung the meat up in his smoker/grill thing by placing the toothpicks horizontal to the rack. Then he smoked that for a few hours.

Although it would no doubt have been more traditional to grind up the resulting jerky with my molcajete, he instead took my suggestion that he use the food processor. No point in being masochistic about this.

When the jerky was reduced to tiny shreds, he also at my suggestion added some Craisins.

Berries were sometimes added traditionally, and cranberries are certainly a native plant, but Craisins are stretching it. Mostly this was an attempt to cater to A.'s more modern tastebuds. I figured a half cup of Craisins wouldn't compromise the integrity of the traditional preparation too much.

After the meat bits and Craisins were combined, A. weighed them to determine how much tallow to add. The five-pound roast made a pound of jerky, so he mixed in a pound of liquid tallow, spread the mixture out in a wax-paper-lined Pyrex pan, and put it in the refrigerator to harden. After it hardened, it kind of resembled an iced cake, with the white tallow on top and the brown meat on the bottom.

It did not taste like an iced cake, to no one's surprise.

A. tasted it first. He was surprised at how palatable it was, though he did remark it was far from a hamburger or something. He gave the children each a taste. They ate it and asked for more. I tasted it.

I did not ask for more.

It's not bad, exactly, it's just . . . smoked meat and fat. I mean, not exactly gourmet fare, you know? I didn't spit it out, but I didn't take another bite, either.

A., however, loves having his pemmican. A pound of pemmican equals 3,000 calories, so he only needs to eat a small square to satisfy his hunger, and it's always there and always ready to eat. The kids eat it, too. Not much of it, and not often, but they will occasionally request some. Cubby asked A. for a plate of pemmican just tonight, actually.

It's not going to replace cooked food or anything, but I suppose it's better than snack cakes, right?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Giddyup

Cubby has been badgering the MiL for about a month now about riding a pony. The MiL, being a regular horse rider herself as well as a woman with a large circle of acquaintances, knows not one, but two people with ponies. So she finally set up a time last night to bring Cubby to a friend's property to ride.

Charlie and I went too, of course. You think Cubby is going to go visit a pony and leave Charlie behind? HAHA NO, said Charlie*. So off we all went after dinner last night in search of adventure in the shape of a small pony.

Ponies don't actually look all that small when you're only four years old, however.


Meet Cheney the Pony.

And I bet they really don't feel that small to a four-year-old when he's perched on top of one, wearing a helmet "just in case you fall!"


Also wearing his sandals with socks under them because I couldn't find his shoes. Appropriate footwear? What's that?

The lady who owns this pony--who is, incidentally, the sister of the MiL's riding instructor and has great-grandchildren she is teaching to ride on this pony--led Cubby around the arena for awhile, instructing him to sit up straight, look right between the pony's ears, and sing.

I think the singing was just to keep him relaxed. In any case, it was pretty funny to watch him very seriously clutching the pommel of the saddle, singing "Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star" as he rode around.


"Old Macdonald Had a Farm" might also have been featured.

Cubby seemed to enjoy it, but he was ready to get off after about fifteen minutes. And then, of course, we know what had to happen next.


"Anything you can do, I can do better . . ."

Charlie only sat up there for about thirty seconds before the pony decided she was done and started stomping irritably. So that was the end of the riding.

But there was more fun to be had! While the MiL was in the house having a glass of wine with the pony's owners, the resident dog decided it was time he had a little attention. He was a really good dog.


And Cubby totally lost their game of tug o' war.

Tearing Cubby away from his new best friend Mack the Dog was not without drama (read: enraged screaming), but we did eventually get back in the car to go home to bed. 

Cubby is already asking when he gets to go back. That's kind of up to the MiL. Maybe I should find his shoes before then, though. You think?

* What he actually said is, "Charlie? Pony?" over and over and over ( AND OVER) again. And then again, in case I was so foolish as to think of leaving him behind.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Meatball Revolution

I really like spaghetti and meatballs. Who doesn't, really? Unfortunately for me and my meatball fondness, I really do NOT like the making of said meatballs. At least, not the standard way of making them: soaking bread crumbs (which I can't use because of the gluten issues in my household) in milk, beating in the eggs, sauteing the minced onions because I can't stand big bits of half-raw onion in my meatballs, forming every meatball individually, browning them all with the accompanying grease splatters, and then the inevitable falling apart in the attempts to turn them in the pan.

And after all that, there's still the chopping and sauteing and simmering to make the tomato sauce that the meatballs go in.

I am far, far too lazy for all of that. Which is why I usually cop out with meat sauce instead. This is inevitably disappointing, because in the end, it's just not a meatball.

Cue inspiration culled from several sources.

First I made the sauce. In the food processor. This idea I think I got from an old Cook's Illustrated recipe for a fresh tomato sauce. In this case, I just combined a big can of whole tomatoes (minus a little juice so it wouldn't be too thin), garlic, onion, basil, oregano, a tiny bit of vinegar, and an even smaller amount of sugar. Liquification--with a few chunks left--followed via machine and there was my sauce.

No chopping, no sauteing, no extra pan.

Next, with the remains of the sauce still coating the food processor, I combined all the meatball ingredients except the meat in the food processor. In my case, that means rice, eggs, garlic, onion, basil, and oregano. Whizzed the shit out of all of that until it was pretty smooth and then mixed it with the meat. The idea for this came from the kibbeh recipe I use, except I elected to keep the meat out of the food processor, mostly because it's a bitch to clean afterwards.

No soaking of crumbs, no mincing and cooking of onions, no beating in eggs with a spoon.

Next I adopted the cooking method from The Pioneer Woman's BBQ Meatballs, which is just to bake the meatballs in the sauce. She says to brown them first on the stove. I say, they're already in the oven and what is a broiler for? So I browned them under the broiler first, drained off some of the resulting liquid, covered them with the sauce* and let them bake away.

No spattering grease, no filth on the stove, no falling apart.

And that was it. One food processor, one Pyrex pan, zero grease splatters, delicious spaghetti and meatballs. My life has been revolutionized. And it only took 34 years.

* Next time I'm going to make more sauce, because after baking with the meatballs for 45 minutes, it had reduced so far there was just barely enough for the spaghetti.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

This Might Be It for the Year

I'm sure you've all noticed (humor me) a distinct lack of garden talk this year. That's because there's been a distinct lack of interest by me in the garden this year.

WHAT? Is this the apocalypse? My garden fervor has waned? No exhaustive posts about vegetables? No incessant whining about canning? NO TOMATO CRAZY?

Nope.

I could blame it all on my children--and in fact their tendency to suck all my time and energy is a large part of it--but really it just comes down to the fact that I have not made the garden a priority this year. There are several reasons for this, but one of them is that I feel defeated by it. It's just so big. And so weedy. And I'm so tired all the time. 

The MiL did most of the planting in the spring. Then the deer and rabbits showed up and razed the joint. They more or less totally destroyed the tomatoes. And the beets. They've taken nibbles of everything in there, even the peppers.

They sheared off the top layer of leaves on the long row of Dragon Tongue beans I did manage to plant, but they did not actually destroy them. It's a testament to this variety that even with extensive deer damage, they're still producing frightening numbers of beans.

Because I didn't plant enough cucumbers for anything more than fresh eating--and I don't care enough to go buy a bushel of pickling cucumbers for pickles--I decided to make some Dilly Beans.


A summer without some kind of pickle would be a sad summer indeed.

Those four and a half pints of Dilly Beans are most probably going to be the sum total of my canning for this year. I can live with that. 

Though I sure do miss having my own canned tomatoes in the winter.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

To Quote the Ultrasound Technician . . .


"Oh, Kristin. I'm afraid you're doomed to be very outnumbered."

It's a boy.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A House Divided

Tomorrow I go to the doctor for my 20-week check-up. This means two things: 1) I'm halfway through this pregnancy, and 2) This is the big sex reveal ultrasound appointment.

Upon being questioned, Cubby says he wants a sister. He already has a brother, he says. Now he wants a sister. Logical enough, I suppose.

Charlie states a preference for a brother. He can't talk well enough to say why he wants a brother. And there is, of course, the likelihood that he has no idea what I'm talking about and is pursuing his own conversational path. That happens a lot.

The MiL hopes for a girl.

A. kind of hopes for another boy. He hasn't much experience with little girls, and he loves his boys so much, I think he can't imagine even having a girl.

So we have two votes for a girl and two votes for a boy. That leaves me as the tie-breaker. Which is no help, since I honestly don't care one way or the other (no, really and for real honestly--I am not secretly harboring desperate hopes for a daughter, promise).

Like all of it matters one bit, right? This kid is already one way or the other (or some mysterious third option that I probably don't want to consider at this moment), so all we can do is wait for the image to come up on the screen. And hope we don't have one of those irritatingly coy babies who refuses to exhibit at the big moment.

Stay tuned.