Sunday, June 16, 2024

Snapshots: Preserving

My friend called me this week to let me know that the apricots at her mom's house were ready to pick and I could take as many as I wanted. I had to be in that city for an appointment with one child on Friday, so we picked some apricots.


Box on the left is the very ripe ones I picked up from the ground. The box on the right is the less-ripe ones we picked from the tree.

Very ripe apricots do not have much pectin, so they won't really thicken and gel. With the box of ripe ones, I just made a sweetened apricot puree for yogurt. I made jam with the slightly underripe ones.


This is two and a half gallons of apricot jam. It won't last nearly as long as you'd think.

I had started bread dough that morning. I typically make my bread dough in my big stock pot, but I knew I would need that to make jam. So instead I used a dedicated dough bucket I bought awhile back and hate because it's square. This makes it hard to mix in and even harder to clean the dough out of the corners. I had mistakenly ordered it thinking I was getting a round one and then I couldn't return it, so I'm stuck with it. 

It comes in handy at times like these, I suppose. And I was very pleased when I thought to use my old 8-inch square baking pan as the lid for it. The pan is very old and kind of rusty, so I don't actually bake in it anymore.


Flipped over, though, it makes for a nice tight lid.

I also finally got around to "krauting," as my children call it.


With some help, of course, because few things are more fun than smashing sliced cabbage with a rolling pin.

I have more cabbages coming out of the garden, so I decided to make a skillet of Holy's cabbage and try freezing and thawing a small amount to see if the taste or texture was affected. I suspected it would freeze (and thaw) well since it's so soft to start with.

I was right. 

So then I made a couple of very large batches of it to freeze.


I (over) filled my biggest 14-inch skillet twice and ended up with three quart bags of cooked cabbage for the freezer.

Unfortunately, yesterday when I was driving to the village, the road was absolutely carpeted with grasshoppers. Thousands of them. They haven't made it to my garden yet, but I don't see how they could miss it. It's looking likely that there might not be a lot of other things that make it to harvest this year. But at least we have sauerkraut and apricot jam, right? Right.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Friday Food: Kohlrabi for Days

Friday

Short version: Tuna salad, leftover garlic bread, strawberries and raspberries with cream

Long version: This was the hottest day of the week, so I announced to A., "It's too hot. I am not cooking tonight."

He thought I meant that I was not preparing dinner, when what I actually meant was I wouldn't be turning on the stove or oven. He was pleasantly surprised when I called everyone to dinner and there was food.

I had made two garlic breads when I had thought I would be serving them to eight people the day we had a guest that didn't eat gluten. This was the smaller bread. I just heated it up in the microwave.

The berries had been on sale at the grocery store the day before, and thus really needed to be used promptly. I haven't yet had a quantity of berries that couldn't be used up by covering them with sugar and heavy cream. So that is what we did.

Saturday

Short version: Spanish tortilla, kohlrabi sticks with ranch dip, ice cream

Long version: Still pretty hot, which is why I made the Spanish tortilla--potatoes, eggs, bacon, onion, bell pepper, lamb's quarter--in the morning. 


The vegetable component of it is very pretty.

I had bought the ice cream the day before, too, and was once again very displeased at buying a dinky 48-ounce container for almost five dollars when I'm used to paying six dollars for a full gallon that will last us for more than one meal.

I really need to get to the city with the Walmart. Too bad none of our appointments are in that city.

Sunday

Short version: Pizza, kohlrabi sticks, coconut flour cookies, ice cream sandwiches

Long version: It was finally slightly cooler, and I really needed to bake bread. So I used some of the dough to make two pizzas.

A. and I had ground the last of the bull meat in the afternoon, so I cooked some of that with salt, garlic powder, and an Italian spice mix and used that on one pizza with the cooked onions that had been hanging out in the refrigerator for awhile.

The other pizza was just cheese.

About those cookies . . .

I had coconut flour because I had bought two coconuts. The children didn't really care for the coconut flesh on its own, so I decided to make coconut milk with it (coconut flesh and warm water in a blender, then strained). They really liked that.

And then I had the remaining solids, which are coconut flour.


Coconut flour and coconut milk.

I used to bake with coconut flour sometimes when the MiL bought it, and I remember it being somewhat difficult to get right in recipes. This recipe I used was no exception.

The "dough" that resulted in following that recipe was very, very wet and sticky. It was like cookie batter is when only the wet ingredients have been mixed, before the dry ingredients are added. This may have been because my coconut flour wasn't all the way dry.

In any case, it was way too wet to bake as is. So I added wheat flour until it seemed about right, and then I added a bit more salt and sugar.


The dough was still pretty wet, so I decided it would be prudent to bake them on parchment paper. You can see by the layer of cookie left behind by the first batch that that was the right call.

The resulting cookies were very soft and cake-y. They were okay, though I don't really care for that texture. I had the idea of using the last of the ice cream with them to make ice cream sandwiches, and that was a popular use for them.

Monday

Short version: Lamb ribs, potatoes, baked beans, raw produce, rice pudding

Long version: The high this day was only in the high 60s, which meant the oven could be on all day. That's about how long it takes to make lamb ribs tender. 

While those were in there, I made the rice pudding and baked beans (with a quart jar of pressure-canned pinto beans), and also baked a few huge potatoes. At dinnertime, I just heated everything up, roughly mashing the potatoes and adding lots of butter and salt to them.

It was good I made such a large meal, because A. and the older two boys had been at a ranch down the hill all day. Eldest is working there this summer as an all-purpose hand, and A. and middle son are doing masonry there on a historic stone corral that's falling down. They were all extremely hungry by the time they got home around 6 p.m., and very appreciative of such a big meal.

Tuesday

Short version: Pork and gravy, porky rice, kohlrabi sticks, ice cream

Long version: Since the three men were at their work site, I only had the two younger kids. So we took a trip to the city with the Walmart. We needed to stock up on quite a few things that are waaaay cheaper there--A.'s instant coffee, butter, the giant containers of peanut butter--and of course, we needed ice cream.

While I was there, I saw a pork tenderloin on sale, so I bought that and chunked it up for dinner. I just fried it in bacon grease and butter, then made a gravy with milk, cornstarch, and some already-cooked diced onion.

The rice was cooked in the juices left from cooking the pork shoulder about a week ago. 

Wednesday

Short version: Chicken curry, leftover rice, pre-dinner cherries, cookies

Long version: One package of chicken breasts, with onion, garlic, curry powder, green peas, the rest of the leftover potatoes, and sour cream. I added more curry powder than I typically do, which made it a little spicier than it usually is.


Also a much brighter yellow.

 Apparently, everyone prefers it this way. Noted.

I got the cherries in the city the day before, from a truck parked on the side of the road. Nothing will make me stop faster than a cardboard sign advertising fruit. These trucks bring the fruit from Colorado, and it's always really good.


Both kinds were delicious, but the Rainier cherries were better.

The cookies were peanut butter/chocolate chip ones I made mostly for the workers to take with them for lunch. Everyone was happy to eat some after dinner, too.

Thursday

Short version: Leftovers, more rice, kohlrabi with ranch dip

Long version: We had both lamb ribs and curry, so I made some more rice for that. And I pulled out the last four kohlrabis from the garden, so I needed to use some more of those.

Refrigerator check:


Did the rail for my deli drawer snap again, for the FOURTH TIME? Yes, it did. Booooo.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

A Garden Update

So half the tomato transplants died, as did most of the peppers and some of the basil.

Why? I do not know. The carrots never came up, either, which is pretty standard for here. I only have a single parsnip, too.

But let's focus on the good things, shall we?

I had almost given up on them, but the beets have finally sprouted. There's hope yet for Aunt Belva's Pickled Beets.

There were two volunteer tomatoes in this box bed:


In the shadow of that giant volunteer sunflower, which is coming out as soon as I get some flowers from it.

You can see some very healthy-looking tomato plants behind that bed, too. Those are the ones I found the tomato hornworms on this week. I pulled off five of those nasty things, which means we are on High Hornworm Alert from now on.

I actually still have twenty tomato plants, despite the attrition, so I would really like to keep them all from being decimated by the hornworms. Or the army worms, which are sure to show up any time.

This year is also the first year I've been seeing cabbage worms on the brassicas. Luckily, they're all almost all at the harvesting stage, so a few holes aren't a big deal.


Or a lot of holes.

I've started harvesting cabbages in sufficient quantity for preservation to begin.


And by "preservation," I mean "sauerkraut."

And the many peaches on the garden peach tree continue to grow satisfactorily.


Of course, these could all still be destroyed by hail or insects or another disaster, but at least there's a chance of fruit this year.

As usual, I'll just keep weeding, watering, and praying that all of these things produce a harvest for me.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Snapshots: Flowers, Tea, and a Breakdown

I mentioned on Friday that we hosted a tea party this week for Poppy's friends. The girls all dressed up and it was very, very cute. 


Poppy had this fabulous hat sent by the MiL that was perfect for a tea party.

We have flowers finally appearing in different places.


Hollyhocks!


Cactus! (And sun tea.)


And a single asiatic lily.

A. took the big truck to the hay place 90 miles away on Wednesday, where the truck wouldn't start again. He had already paid for and loaded his hay, so he had to unload it all and call for a wrecker. He had the truck towed to a mechanic there in the city, where they told him they couldn't even look at it for three weeks. So he decided to have it towed to the mechanic near our house. 

The wrecker guy actually hauled the truck back to the hay place, loaded the hay into the truck, and hauled the whole thing back here.


Hay on truck on truck.

Unfortunately, we learned that the mechanic is closing down his shop next week. Which means the nearest mechanic is now 60 miles away. 

Booooo.

A. thinks he can fix the truck, but it's still a bummer not to have the option of delegating mechanical things.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Friday Food: Hot Weather Food

It's been ninety degrees or above for most of the week. That is why leftovers have featured heavily this week. Because we do not have air conditioning, and I do not want to be cooking big meals when it's 85 degrees in my kitchen.

Friday

Short version: Shepherd's pie, raw produce

Long version: I had a lot of whipped potatoes left I had made a few days before, so I decided to use them to top a shepherd's pie. Of course, by the time I made the meat mixture for a 9"x13" pan, I needed more potatoes than I had. So I added instant potato flakes, along with a bunch more milk, butter, and sour cream, to bulk up the potatoes I already had.

That worked well.

Saturday

Short version: Leftovers, bread and butter

Long version: Some leftover shepherd's pie, some leftover lamb steak, plus bread and butter and more raw produce to finish it all off.

Sunday

Short version: Pork, baked beans, boiled potatoes, green salad with vinaigrette, strawberry/rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream

Long version: We had guests with us for dinner this night, and I knew it was going to be 90 degrees in the afternoon. For that reason, I cooked everything ahead of time. I made the baked beans--using a couple of containers of cooked and frozen pinto beans--the pie, and some garlic bread the day before. I also cooked a pork shoulder in the morning.

And then an hour before the guests came I got a text that one of them is avoiding gluten.

Okay, that's a no on the garlic bread, then.

That's why I was boiling a pot of potatoes at four o'clock. So much for not heating the kitchen.

It wasn't too bad, actually. I also shredded and fried the pork in its own rendered fat on my big grill pan, but even still, it was only about 80 degrees inside when we sat down to eat. Bearable.

The pie had what is probably the last of this year's rhubarb in it. It was very good.


Slightly less ugly than my last lattice-topped pie, too. 

There is, obviously, gluten in that pie, but thankfully our guest doesn't actually have an allergy to gluten or anything, he just didn't want to eat too much of it. He couldn't resist trying the pie, though.

Who could, really?

Monday

Short version: Leftovers

Long version: A. had the last of the lamb steak and some of the leftover boiled potatoes. The children had leftover pork and potatoes fried together, plus some of the leftover carrot and kohlrabi sticks that I had set out as appetizers the night before.

Tuesday

Short version: Lamb chops, garlic bread, raw produce

Long version: This was the garlic bread we didn't have on Sunday. I just heated it up in the microwave to keep it soft. 

The raw produce we've been having has been either bell peppers, radishes, or cucumbers, depending on preferences and what needs to be used first.

We had hosted a tea party earlier this day for a couple of Poppy's friends, which of course featured scones.


It's not a tea party at our house without scones.

Wednesday

Short version: Pork sandwiches, leftover lamb chops and potatoes, raw produce

Long version: I had forgotten I had some pork left, which I discovered when I was pulling out the last of the potatoes for A. So I started slicing the pork, thinking I would fry it in the skillet on the stove to heat it up. But then the child in the kitchen with me remarked that it looked like it would be good for sandwiches.

Indeed it would. So that is what the children had. Some had it with barbecue sauce, one chose pickles and mayonnaise, another had mayonnaise, mustard, and lettuce. 

A. had the last of the lamb chops and potatoes.

Thursday

Short version: Hot dogs, coleslaw, coconut water

Long version: I had bought these hot dogs when we were in the city to go the dentist last week. I left them this day for A. to cook, because I was in a different city at a therapy appointment with a child. I also made the coleslaw in the morning.

And then I got home just after 6 p.m. to the children informing me they had not been fed, and A. countering that he asked several times if they wanted to eat and they kept saying no.

I guess they were just waiting for me. Touching.

So I fried the hot dogs and put them in buns.

The coconut water came from actual coconuts. Poppy had been asking me about coconuts, and I told her that we used to eat fresh coconuts when we lived in Hawaii. I promised her if I ever saw a fresh coconut, I would buy one for her. 

And then, there they were at the grocery store.

I bought two. A. drilled holes in them so we could drain out the coconut water, which the children drank. And then I completely failed to get the coconut flesh out. I had no memory of how we did this when I was seven years old, so I looked for tips online.

My options were freezing it or baking it. I was not going to be turning on my oven to 400 degrees, so I went with freezing and told the kids we'd have coconut for breakfast in the morning.

Refrigerator check:


You can tell I've been to the store a lot lately, can't you?

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

On Having Prey Instincts

When we moved to our house on the Canadian border in the far north of New York State, we were essentially living in the middle of a forest. It was quite possible to walk across the road from our house into the woods and not come to another road, habitation, or any other sign of civilization for many miles. 

It took me awhile after we moved there to figure out why I always went to the right when I went for a run: If I went to the left, I was hemmed in by forest on both sides of the road for miles. I felt like anything could come out of those woods--human or animal--and I really did not like that feeling. I couldn't see what might be there. 

So I always ran the other way, which meant I was going past our neighbor's dairy farm. Much more open. I could see.

I think it was A. who said I was reacting as a prey animal might. They always want to be somewhere where they can see danger approaching. It was funny to think of it like that, but I think he was right.

That's why I feel so comfortable here, I suppose. I can see for literally miles. Everything is open. There are very few trees. The land is mostly flat; the air is clear; the sun is almost always shining. Maximum visibility.


If there was a bear within five miles, I would see it.

I probably shouldn't analyze this too much, but ever since I realized that I react to my environment as a prey animal might, things make much more sense to me.

Do you like the wide-open spaces, or do you prefer to have trees around you?

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Snapshots: Beneath These Western Skies

I had as sad coffee situation this week, since I use a French press to make my coffee and I broke the glass insert while I was washing it.

Boo.

I ordered another, but while I was waiting for it, I had this rather elaborate set-up with a jar, a funnel, a strainer, and a coffee filter.


Way too much to keep track of first thing in the morning.

Thankfully, my replacement glass thing arrived on Friday, so I only had to do all of that for a few mornings.

Speaking of things that work again . . .

My shiny new Honda has not only a working radio--the old Honda had no stereo component that still worked at all--but a functioning CD player.

I realize CDs are hopelessly outdated and everyone uses their phones or something now. I still have a lot of CDs, though, and haven't had anywhere to play them since the CD player in the van stopped working five years ago*.

But now I have a CD player, which is really, really nice on the very long drives I often have to take.

One of the CDs I've been listening to is Chris LeDoux's greatest hits. The last song on it--and my favorite--is "Western Skies."

I always appreciate the appropriateness of this song, as this is usually what I'm looking at as I drive:


Western skies, indeed.

This week's big entertainment was a rather elaborate ship game that included a sail with the name of the ship painted on it.


It's hard to see the name if the wind isn't right. It's The Dying Falcon.

I had to ask why they went with The Dying Falcon. Because there have been too many Flying ones, apparently. I guess that was in reference to The Flying Dutchmen? Who knows.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

* Well, it technically still works, it's just that one CD has been stuck in it all this time. Given our location, that means that our options for the last five years have been either the one radio station that comes in sometimes, or Billy Joel. That's a lot of repetitions of "We Didn't Start the Fire."