Thursday, July 28, 2016

Living the Cliche

I have a particular dislike for cliched phrases in food writing. One that immediately comes to mind is "brown bits on the bottom of the pan." I realize this is accurately descriptive, but I see it so frequently that it has become an irritant. Another is the instruction to serve certain foods with "a good crusty loaf for mopping up the juices."

I know. This is an irrational dislike. I can't help it.

I was thinking about it this morning, though, as I was transferring some random roasted vegetables from a sheet pan to a storage container to await dinner*. There was still a bit of olive oil on the pan, along with those tasty brown bits.

Cliche number one!

I thought it would be a shame to just give that pan to Mia to lick for me. Such a waste of deliciously flavored olive oil. Luckily for me, the MiL bakes artisan sourdough bread every week or so**, meaning we always have a good crusty loaf on hand.

Cliche number two!

So I wiped up the oil and brown bits with a slice of my good crusty loaf. Cliches never tasted so good.

 * It's really hot here and I had the oven on anyway to bake something this morning in an attempt to use up some failing bananas, so I decided to roast the vegetables in the morning so it wouldn't be too hot in the un-air-conditioned kitchen right before dinner. What, you weren't burning with curiosity about the weather, my odd roasting timing, or the state of my bananas? Huh. Weird.

** This is obviously a great drawback to moving away. I'm going to have to take some of the sourdough starter up north with us and get my own bakery in operation. Dammit.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Can You Spot the Pot?

My Crock-Pot* has become an eccentric. It seemed normal enough when I bought it twelve years ago at a Goodwill thrift store in Albany. In fact, it seemed to be a brand-new, in-the-box Crock-Pot. For ten dollars. It didn't occur to me that perhaps it was at a thrift store in the first place because it had a defect.

But I think it does. And I think the defect is that it has no insulation on the outside, so it gives off a lot of heat. Slow cookers aren't supposed to generate a lot of heat, are they? I'm always hearing about how great they are to use in the summer because they don't heat up your kitchen. Mine does. Which is why I put it out in the shop in the summer when I use it.

When the meat is done, perhaps I could shred it with A.'s industrial grinder. I mean, it is right there on the same table.

I use the Crock-Pot so seldom, however, that I've never thought it worthwhile to get a new one.

When the plastic handle on the lid came off, A. carved me a new one out of wood. Then that broke off and I used twisted-up aluminum foil for awhile before he made me another new one. He decided to be funny with that one and made it out of a ram lamb's tiny horn. 

Ha ha. That A. Such a card.

Now that one has gotten brittle with the heat and is disintegrating. Also, one of the plastic handles on the side of the main body of the Crock-Pot has snapped off, so lifting it has gotten a little tricky.

But it still cooks. So I'm still using it, despite its, uh, quirks. 

At least I could never be accused of disposable consumerism.

* Yes, it is an actual name-brand Crock-Pot, so I don't have to call it the generic "slow cooker." Not that I would worry overly much about that, anyway, even if it was a generic slow cooker.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lucky Thirteen

Today marks thirteen years of marriage for A. and me. So that's . . . let's see, either lace or textile furs.

Textile furs? What the hell is that?

Maybe I should have gotten him a fur pillow edged in lace, just to cover all the bases.

Actually, I didn't get him anything. He got me a cabin in the north woods. We really pull out all the stops for anniversaries, obviously.

We aren't going to do anything particular to celebrate. Maybe we'll take the kids to get ice cream after dinner. I'll be happy if the day doesn't involve disintegrating rodents in our drinking water.

Happy anniversary to A. I bet this thirteenth year is going to be the luckiest of all.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Hero of the Day

Yesterday when Cubby and Charlie went to church with the MiL for what will probably be the last time before we move, one of their favorite church buddies--Miss Debi--surprised them with going-away presents. She gave them each a (really nasty-looking) rubber creature just like the ones that she keeps in her purse to amuse her grandchildren.

You can see why Miss Debi was a favorite.

Charlie chose the tree frog, and Cubby got the lizard. They were very excited to have rubber creatures of their very own and kept them in their hands all day.

Until Charlie lost his frog.


This caused so many problems. Because of course, Cubby still had his lizard, so Charlie spent the rest of the day alternating between whining and crying that he wanted a turn with the lizard, and stealing the lizard and hiding somewhere with it to play where Cubby couldn't find him.

It was not fun.

I looked everywhere I could think of for that damned frog, inside and out. The MiL looked. Cubby looked. A. looked. No one had any luck, and I was resigned to the fact that I would be hearing fights about the lizard for days.

And then, this morning, Jack climbed up on the lawn tractor to play and found the frog.


We all cheered and clapped. Of course, I had to take the frog away from him to give to Charlie, but there was so much applause that he didn't seem to mind the loss of his newly-discovered friend.

And so frog and lizard have been reunited.

It just warms my heart to see these two freaky-looking friends together again.

Thanks to this guy.

Just doin' my job, ma'am.

Crisis resolved. Thank God.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Morning's Incendiary Excitement

There I was in the kitchen making yogurt, one pot on the stove heating the milk, the other pot on the stove just starting to get the water warm for the water bath and . . . why does it smell like something is burning? Ah, perhaps because of the FLAMES COMING FROM THE STOVE?

Yup, that'd be why.

There was something pooled under the back burner that had caught on fire. I didn't know exactly what it was, but some kind of grease was a safe bet. So I lifted the pot of water off the flaming burner, being very careful not to get the potholders near the flames, and then dumped about a cup of baking soda over the flames.

Those industrial-sized bags of baking soda from BJ's certainly are handy in cases of fiery yogurt making.

It was actually all very calm and unhurried, probably because there were no children in the kitchen with me at the time.

And then! I came thiiiiiis close to boiling over the milk when I was trying to clean up the baking soda mess. Whee!

I managed to get my yogurt in the cooler with no further mishaps.

Just remember, kids: Smokey Kristin says, only you can keep grease fires from becoming raging conflagrations.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Blackberry Battleground

This morning I got all suited up in long pants and one of A.'s long-sleeved work shirts, in preparation for a Blackberry Battle.

Okay, so actually I was just picking blackberries, but that's definitely a battle. Especially this year, because the blackberry patch has not actually been weeded at all, and is also partially surrounded by a fence, so picking the blackberries requires essentially wading into the blackberry thicket to get at the berries.

Blackberry thorns are no joke, man. But I really need to make some jelly. Hence the battle gear.

And then, of course, I had to contend with the enemy troops. Namely, Cubby and Charlie. They obviously followed me out to the blackberry brambles* and commenced to shoving blackberries in their insatiable maws as quickly as they could find them. Luckily, I am much taller than they are and could reach more of the berries. Also, they were in shorts and sandals, so they couldn't penetrate the thicket as well as I could in my special forces gear.

HA HA, SUCKERS. Preparation is everything.

I only got about 2/3 of a quart of berries, though, which is nowhere near enough to make the 3 and 3/4 cups of juice I need for jelly. So I guess I'll be re-entering the battle grounds over the next few (very hot) days as the berries continue to ripen so I can gather enough.

I just have to beat Cubby and Charlie to the berries. It's on.

* Jack was asleep, because I am not stupid enough to try to pick blackberries with a toddler crashing into the blackberry canes next to me.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

It's a Christmas-in-July Miracle

Behold, the only photo ever taken in which every one of my children is smiling:

And not only my children, but my dad, too.

I took this in the van on the way to dinner at an actual restaurant when my parents were visiting. No one was smiling on the way home, because Charlie spent the whole way home writhing in his seat and shrieking, "Get me out of here NOW!"

But I have proof that for one short moment in time, everyone was happy. A miracle, indeed.