Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Food: The Beat Goes On


Short version: Meatballs with marinara and cheese, fried garlic bread, raw green beans with ranch dip

Long version: The continuing theme of this late summer weather is trying to do as much cooking as possible in the morning while it's cool. My kitchen gets pretty hot in the afternoons, and firing up the stove or oven for any extended period when it's already 84 degrees in that room isn't appealing.

So. I made the meatballs in the morning, forming them and browning them under the broiler. Then I made the marinara and put the meatballs in it, shoving the whole skillet into the refrigerator to await reheating at dinnertime. When I reheated it, I also added some asadero cheese on top. Asadero is the cheese we use in place of mozzarella. I can't tell a difference. And given that this particular cheese is made in Wisconsin, there might not be a difference other than the packaging.

Instead of heating the oven again to make the garlic bread, I instead just fried it in butter in a skillet I already had on the stovetop from making lunch. That was a popular move.


Short version: Potatoes with bacon and cheese, raw broccoli with ranch dip

Long version: We were at the Cowboy Camp Meeting in the afternoon and didn't get home until almost 6 p.m. They were serving dinner there, but not until 7 p.m. this year, so we left after the foot races and came home for dinner.

I had already cooked some potato chunks before we left. When we got home I cooked a bunch of diced bacon, then added some diced onion, the potatoes, and grated cheddar. Cubby was thrilled. He came in the kitchen while I was cooking and said, "I really need some real food."

The multiple bags of chips, bottles of Gatorade, and sno cones the children consumed at the camp meeting definitely do not fit that definition.

The onions I used in the potatoes were from the bag I had diced and frozen before we left for Blackrock. I had like four onions that I needed to do something with--can you imagine the stench if I had just left them in the cabinet for a whole month? ewwww--and I read online that you can dice them and freeze them. So I did. They come right apart right out of the bag, so it's easy to grab just a little bit at a time, and they are convenient to have, but I can smell them even through the heavy freezer bag I put them in. I had to wrap another plastic bag around them so I can store them in the freezer without contaminating the frozen fruit or butter or whatever else that's in there.


Short version: A puppy-excursion picnic

Long version: At 3:30 p.m., A. said he was going to look at some puppies and he wanted everyone to come. The puppies were at least an hour's drive away, I did an instant dinnertime calculation and decided I'd better throw some stuff into a cooler for a dinner picnic. So in five minutes I put together all the food we had suitable for travel. That is, cheese, two random hardboiled eggs, beef jerky, bread and butter, cherries, and apples.

This was a good call, because it was after 5 p.m. when we left the puppy house. Luckily, there was a designated picnic spot just about five miles from there, which is almost miraculous, given the scarcity of such places in rural areas like the one we were in.

Picnicking children. And Adventure Van, waiting patiently to bring us home.


Short version: Pork chops with marinara sauce and asadero cheese, pasta with pesto, cucumbers, apricot cobbler with vanilla ice cream

Long version: This was the meal I was planning to make Sunday before I was sidetracked by puppies. Monday was a celebratory day anyway, as it was the first day of school for Cubby and Charlie. Pasta with pesto is one of their favorites; any meat cooked with cheese is A.'s favorite, and everyone likes ice cream.

With only the two smaller children home, I was able to let them help me make the pesto without too much chaos.

Pulling leaves off stems is the perfect task for tiny hands.

I had a vague memory of a similar photo I took of Cubby and Charlie doing the same thing for me at about the same ages, and here it is:

Find what works and stick with it, I say.

I made the cobbler because we got a box of about thirty pounds of apricots from Miss Amelia's daughter. Most of it I made into jam.


But I thought I should use some of them for a special dessert. I made the topping with coconut flour, so everyone could eat it. It was okay. I don't really like coconut flour that much, but A. and Cubby loved it. And the apricots with the ice cream was delicious.


Short version: Tuna patties, fresh bread and butter, roasted sweet potatoes/bell peppers/onion, sauteed green beans

Long version: The green beans are finally producing enough that I can pick beans every morning. Not without trepidation, however. That damp, luxuriant foliage is a magnet for all kinds of insects and the things that feed on them. There are numerous spiders that spin their webs right across the foliage, along with a small snake that hangs out right at the south end of the row (thankfully a harmless garter snake), and a lot of bees that love the squash flowers beneath the bean plants. 

I spend a lot of time poking cautiously in the foliage before reaching my hand in to pick beans. This is why I don't have the children doing the harvesting for me.


Short version: Beef and potatoes, cucumbers with vinegar and salt

Long version: There was a big rump roast in the freezer that kept getting in my way when I was trying to dig other things out, so I finally just took it out and cooked it. I put it in the oven early in the morning, took it out around noon, chunked it up, and saved the fat.

I also boiled some potato chunks. We had to be at church at 5 p.m., so when we got home at 5:50 p.m., all I had to do was re-heat the meat and potatoes in the tallow, along with garlic powder, paprika, and thyme.


Short version: Ribeye and T-bone steaks, rice, sauteed green beans

Long version: Nah.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Coming Soon To a Family Near Nobody

Many of you guessed, but here's the photographic answer.

In two weeks, we will have two puppies. Boom.

Why two? Why not? I have four kids, which is more than the average. Might as well have more dogs than the average, too.

These are a mix of border collie, blue lacy cur, and Australian shepherd, all working dogs. Their parents are cattle dogs, and they were born on a ranch about an hour from us. 

We were only going to get one, but when we went to look at the puppies, the people had one with a non-functioning eye that they couldn't really sell as a working dog, but wanted to give to a family as a pet. The puppy was so quiet and sweet that I told A. we might as well have two, so we don't have a lone dog getting bored and lonely when we're gone for one of our day-long shopping trips or whatever.

They're still only six weeks old, and puppies aren't typically weaned until eight weeks, so in a couple of weeks they'll get de-wormed and get all their shots, and then they'll be ready to come home with us.

We're all excited. Except maybe the chickens, but they don't know what's coming.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Something exciting is going to happen very soon here. Two somethings, actually.

Here's a hint: We're hoping they'll be a boy's (and girl's) best friends, too.

Any guesses?

(I'll post a photo tomorrow that will make it all very clear.)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Grossing Out the Grossest

As the mother of three boys, I spend more time than I would like saying, "Stop that. That's gross." They like to talk about disgusting things, do disgusting things, and show me disgusting things. (No, I do not want to see the dead shrew in the garden, thank you so much, son.)

I got a little bit of revenge with Cubby yesterday, though.

When I was gathering trash in the morning in preparation for A.'s dump run, I moved the bag of trash and the trash can in the enclosed porch to find a few dozen maggots squirming around underneath them.


As I really didn't want those maggots becoming yet more flies that inevitably end up in my house, I swept them up and put them in a bucket so I could drown them in water. But then I remembered the chickens. Chickens LOVE maggots. So instead of drowning the loathsome things, I called Cubby over and asked him to take the bucket of maggots to the chickens.

He looked in the bucket, made a face, and stuck a stick through the handle of the bucket, as if the thought of touching the bucket the maggots were in was just too much for him.

So of course, I had to elaborate on how delicious those maggots were for the chickens; how the chickens have never had such a delectable treat; how chickens love nothing better than live maggots.

"MOM, STOP," said Cubby. "That's gross!"


Friday, August 9, 2019

Friday Food: A Week of Ribs and Randomness


Short version: Beef ribs, rice, frozen green beans

Long version: Beef ribs are always a problem for me. I've yet to settle on a really good way to cook them, and this isn't really the right weather for the slow cooking that seems to work best with them. However, they take up a lot of space in the freezer and we have a lot of them so I took some out anyway to cook.

I just threw them in a covered roasting pan in the morning--still completely frozen--and cooked them at 350 degrees until they were mostly tender. At dinnertime, I spread them in a pan and broiled them with some barbecue sauce on top. They were fine.


Short version: Hot dogs and chips for the kids at the fair, leftovers and eggs for the adults

Long version: This was our big day at The County Fair, and the kids' activities weren't over until 5 p.m.

Jack (in the red hat) preparing to dress a goat. The goat was so focused on the hay on the ground that it didn't pay any attention to the t-shirt that was going over its head.

By the time the last activity was done, the boys were starving and A. decided to reward their excellent fair participation with dinner from the concession stand. This is not your normal county fair with tons of food vendors selling fry bread and sausages on a stick or whatever. There is one concession stand and they offer one thing: Hot dogs with potato chips and a soda. So that's what they had.

A. had leftover beef ribs and rice when we got home, and I had some fried eggs. Nobody consumed a vegetable. I don't think we're suffering from a vitamin deficiency, so I didn't worry about it.


Short version: Mutton ribs, mashed potatoes, sauteed summer squash and mushrooms, frozen green beans, Otter Pops

Long version: Also taking up a lot of space in the freezer were the packages of ribs from the sheep we butchered several months ago. This is the last of the sheep meat, and it requires A. to be home for a couple of hours to cook it over a fire outside.

To cook them, he marinated them with olive oil, vinegar, and three whole heads of garlic, then dug a pit for charcoal that he constructed a makeshift grill over.

Keeping his lonely rib vigil, with only the horses in the pasture for company.

When the ribs were done, I kept them in a hot oven while I finished mashing the potatoes and dishing everything else up. It's very important with sheep meat, especially the fatty cuts, that the meat is eaten as hot as possible. The fat solidifies quickly when it cools and is very unappetizing when it does.

A. was completely enraptured with his ribs. They were exactly what he wanted. That's the benefit of being the cook.

Sunday is supposed to be the day for a homemade dessert, but we had so many Otter Pops in the freezer from the county parade--this is the only parade I've ever been to where they throw Otter Pops--that I just gave those to the kids for their dessert. No complaints.


Short version: Roasted chicken, leftover mutton ribs, roasted potatoes and onions, roasted sweet potatoes, raw broccoli with ranch dip

Long version: I can't remember the last time we had chicken, so when I saw whole ones on sale at the grocery store, I bought one. Of course, then I had to roast a chicken, which is not appealing when the kitchen is already 80 degrees. I did spatchcock the chicken to reduce the cooking time, but it still got to 85 degrees in the kitchen before it was done.

I rubbed the chicken with an herb butter that included the top parts of the basil I had to pinch off to prevent flowering, chives, and garlic, and it came out very well. Cubby ate an astonishing quantity of it. Maybe his animal project for the fair next next year should be meat chickens.


Short version: Chicken slop, scrambled eggs with feta and chives, leftover rice and mashed potatoes, leftover roasted vegetables, raw green beans, bread and butter

Long version: The MiL used to make something after Thanksgiving that she called Turkey Slop. It was basically just the leftover turkey heated with the leftover gravy and served over mashed potatoes. I had some really tasty scrapings and juices left in the pan after roasting the chicken, with which I didn't make gravy the night we had the chicken, but which I saved for the next night. This one.

I cooked a bit of extra garlic in some of the chicken fat, then added the saved juices with some cornstarch to thicken and heated the chicken in that. The children ate this with the mashed potatoes, and the raw green beans. These were Charlie's Easter-planted green beans.

The green bean thicket that ate the fence. And the volunteer squash that's taking over my clothesline area.

The children prefer the green beans raw. Along with most other vegetables.

There wasn't enough chicken left for all of us, so A. and I had the eggs and rice. While we were eating, I mentioned that my mother, who grew up in New Orleans, had rice at every meal as a child, regardless of what else was being served. Which led to me asking A. if his dad had bread and butter at every meal--bread being the starch of choice in the northeast--and him replying in the affirmative, and then the children asking for bread and butter after they finished everything else.

Should've seen that one coming.


Short version: Chili, tortillas and cheese, bell pepper strips, watermelon

Long version: This is really not simmering-all-day-on-the-stove chili weather, but we have a lot of stew meat on hand. So I started the chili at 6:15 a.m., thus ensuring that it was done by 10 a.m., when it was already 85 degrees.

The watermelon was, of course, a seeded one, courtesy of A.'s trip to the outside world on Monday.

No-longer-a-baby picture, apropos of nothing:

Baby? Where'd you go, and who is this giant toddler in your place?


Short version: Tacos, roasted sweet potato, raw broccoli with ranch dip, watermelon

Long version: Still too hot for a lot of cooking, which is why I just browned a pound of ground beef and then dumped in the remainder of the chili for a very fast taco filling.

The only reason I roasted sweet potatoes is because the oven was on anyway to bake bread. Sourdough doesn't care what the weather is.

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

Sunday, August 4, 2019

(Reserve) Champion of the County Fair

Big weekend here in Extremely Rural America, everyone. This was the weekend of The County Fair.

The County Fair is a big deal here, hence all the capitalization. It's mostly a showcase for the kids, who can enter various kinds of projects, handicrafts, baked goods, and whatever, as well as animals to show.

We didn't have any animals this year, thanks to our month-long absence, but there were still several ways for Cubby in particular to participate.

Cubby is the only one of my kids old enough to do the official 4-H projects, and for each one of those he is required to do some kind of display at the fair. His two official projects were origami and photography.

For the origami display, he did a poster showing the step-by-step folds to make a dog. That got a first place ribbon.

For photography, he submitted a black and white photo of an apricot tree in a pasture after a snowstorm, plus two portraits of Poppy. His black and white photo got a first place ribbon. The other ones got second and third place ribbons.

But the real prize winner was his garlic. This was not a 4-H project, because he hadn't chosen gardening as one of his official projects, so he entered the garlic in the open class for agriculture. That means it was in with the adult entries. When we went to look around after the judging, he was thrilled to find a huge pink ribbon on his garlic announcing it the Reserve Champion for the entire vegetable class.

Reserve Champion OF THE WORLD. Or at least the county.

Further glory awaited Cubby later in the day when he won first place in a goat-dressing contest (they just had to get a t-shirt over the goat's head), second place in the calf scramble (chasing calves with paper money rubber-banded to their tails), and first place in steer riding (just what it sounds like).

Cubby excelled in many areas at the fair this year, but of course I'm most proud of his ribbon for gardening. That's my boy.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Friday Food: So Much Repetition

Not the most original week, but everyone was fed.


Short version: Bunless hamburgers, pasta with pesto, frozen peas

Long version: I have only two basil plants, from the fourteen I started with in pots in the kitchen. Most of them didn't survive transplanting, which seems to be a common problem for plants of all types here. Of the two that did survive, the one in my regular garden bed is pathetically small. The one in the sunken bed with the lettuce is the only one that's producing basil in any quantity.

I used most of the plant for this pasta and had juuuust enough for a full pound of pasta. I should have had a little more, in truth, but I didn't.


Short version: Ribeye steaks, garlic bread, roasted bell pepper/onion/mushrooms, carrot sticks

Long version: I finally fixed my sourdough starter problem by getting my original starter back. See, several months ago in the course of conversation with the lady from whom we buy our milk, she complained that she had never yet managed to get a good sourdough starter going here in New Mexico. Since I was still using the starter I had brought with me in a cooler from New York, I gave her a jar of mine, which she has been using with great success ever since.

After I gave up on getting my frozen starter back to its original state, I called May and asked her if I could have some starter back. She's about to leave for her own month-long trip, and had actually just frozen almost all of her starter. Thankfully for both of us, she found an old jar of starter in her refrigerator that she fed for me until she was sure it was okay, and then gave me some.

Imagine the sadness if her starter had ended up like mine. I can't even think about it.

I baked a batch of bread--and the garlic bread we ate for dinner this night--that came out perfectly. So I am now the Keeper of the Starter for both of us, and I will never leave my starter in the freezer again, amen.


Short version: Pot roast, baked potatoes, sauteed summer squash, cucumbers with vinegar and salt

Long version: It's really too warm to be pot roasting anything, but the arm roast I pulled out of the freezer would not have done well on a grill. I did most of the cooking in the morning. At dinnertime, I pulled the meat apart and heated it up in the liquid left.

The summer squash came from Rafael, who has begun his deliveries of produce again, despite the fact that we now live ten miles away instead of down the street. I don't really care about summer squash much, as I have never found them to be bursting with flavor, but that problem is easily remedied by olive oil and a lot of garlic.

The cucumbers, however, which were also from Rafael, were bursting with flavor. The flavor of good cucumbers. I have never had a cucumber from the store that doesn't have a slight edge of funkiness to it that a homegrown cucumber never, ever has. Homegrown cucumbers only taste sweet and fresh and incredibly good. Well, except for the bitter ones, but even those don't have the weird taste store cucumbers have.

I'm so glad Rafael is sharing with us again, because not a single one of my cucumber seeds germinated and it would have been sad to go a whole summer without a good cucumber.

This is what Cubby was doing to entertain himself this week:

This apparently is an orb spider's web. It was originally positioned in the doorway to the covered porch, but I had to insist that the construction project be moved to a less obstructive spot.


Short version: Lots of leftovers

Long version: "Mom, what's for dinner?"


"Leftovers?! Can't we have . . ."

"Including leftover pasta."



Short version: Ribeye steaks, spicy chicken fillets, roasted potatoes, roasted cabbage, cucumber/tomato/shallot salad

Short version: The chicken fillets were from a bag of fully cooked frozen Schwan's chicken fillets that Ray gave us when he was unloading his freezers. They had a really spicy breading on them, which I had to take off for Charlie and Jack. Cubby likes spicy food, so I left it on for him, and he loved these things. "They taste like restaurant chicken, only better!" Okay, then.

The cabbage was actually the mini heads of cabbage that I harvested after we got home from our trip. Fun fact about cabbage: If you cut off the main head carefully at the base and leave the plants in the ground, they will grow several small heads all around the base. It's like a free harvest.


Short version: Hamburgers with bread buns, cucumbers and carrots with ranch dip

Long version: At about 3 p.m., A. asked what we were having for dinner and I said, "Ground beef. Final form yet to be determined." To which he replied enthusiastically, "Wouldn't it be good to have hamburgers with bread buns? Like, with the sourdough bread?"

Okay. I mean, we did have hamburgers already this week, but then, we had ribeye steak twice, too. Plus, as Cubby said with excitement, these were hamburger sandwiches, and when was the last time we had hamburger sandwiches?

There are those low standards again. So useful.


Short version: Fiesta scrambled eggs, garlic bread, vegetables and ranch dip

Long version: What makes scrambled eggs a (Spanish) party? Grated cheese and salsa, of course. Ole!

These eggs did not come from our chickens.

Ours are still freeloading, but it does look as if we have only one rooster. Hooray!

And there are the garlic bread and vegetables again.

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