Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Some Photos

I don't have a lot to say today. I have a cold; eldest son is laid up after his second foot surgery Friday; and the other two boys are taking it in turns to be sick and home from school.

So I just went outside, took a lap around the house, and took some pictures. And here they are.


The backyard clothesline is my spring/summer clothesline. Less sun, but also doesn't get whipped around in the terrible wind we get in the spring. I can't use it in the winter because the woodstove smoke gets in here, but it's going to be 70 degrees today, so no fire.
 

Random toys left outside. These cattle don't look too healthy to me.


Hardy parsley already showing green.


Lamb gang.


The bulb garden/mechanic's pit continues to grow.


An astonishing quantity of baling twine from hay bales that I paid the youngest two children to clean up yesterday. Totally worth five bucks to not have to pick it all up myself.


These sticks were obviously part of some game. I thought they looked quite arty arranged as they were in the morning light on the front steps.

That's all. Have a nice Tuesday.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Snapshots: Treats and Trips

We are for sure a family of readers. Now that the youngest can read, we have six people leaving books all over the house.


Literacy can be messy.

I always make crispy rice treats for the children to include with their Valentine's cards for classmates. I make enough to give to every staff member at the school, too. This year I even made enough that I gave them to the high schoolers during lunch.


Crispy treats for a crowd.

Valentine's Day was particularly challenging this year, being both a work day for me and Ash Wednesday. About the only festive thing I could manage for the children were these bread hearts to go along with their eggs at breakfast.


Only one of the children was notably enthused about this. I bet you can guess which one. Hint: It was not a boy.

One of the teachers had the good idea this year to give each child a big popcorn bucket to decorate to hold their valentines at school. They were all set up in the cafeteria so they were easy to find and fill, and they were very decorative all arranged there.


Valentine's Day Central.

Not at all related to Valentine's Day, but I discovered this week that my cowboy boots fit again.


These boots are not particularly made for walking, although they're surprisingly comfortable.

I have had these boots since I worked on a dude ranch in college, so . . . well, decades. They're narrow, with pointy toes, and they haven't fit for a few years. Apparently, however, some of the weight I have lost was in my feet, so they fit now. Nice to have another pair of shoes.

I wore them to the basketball game this week, which was, of course, a long way away. One hundred and sixty miles roundtrip, to be precise.


On the road again. And again. And again.

But at least I didn't have to do the 220-mile trip to the basketball game yesterday. A. got to go to that one. Lucky him.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Friday Food: Havin' Big Fun on the Bayou*

Friday 

Short version: Tuna patties, roasted potatoes, green salad with vinaigrette, gingersnaps

Long version: I've been making fish patties with two big cans of tuna and one can of salmon, because we've been getting the salmon from the excess commodities. This time, I used all tuna, and they were better. Darn it.

I hadn't made gingersnaps in awhile, so I, well, did. I use this recipe, except I don't add the white pepper. We find them plenty spicy enough with the other spices in them. They are very good.

Saturday

Short version: Pizza, cucumbers, baked fruit with cream

Long version: One pepperoni pizza, one with just cheese, both with some fresh basil from the pot on the windowsill. I also used one of my frozen bags of roasted tomato sauce, and that makes it so much better. Not that pizza is ever bad, but it's better with garden-tomato sauce.

I still have a very large bag of frozen blueberries from Sysco that really should be used up now. So I combined them with some frozen strawberries and the last half pint of overly sweet peach jam from a couple of summers ago. Also some vanilla. Then I just baked it until most of the liquid was gone, and served it with heavy cream poured over the top.

A very popular dessert. And reasonably healthy, as desserts go.

Sunday

Short version: Birthday lobster, shrimp, sausage, spaghetti, salad, cheesecake

Long version: This was the new 14-year-old's birthday request. I got two lobster tails. The reason I got two is because getting one for each person in the family would have been exorbitantly expensive. Even two were kind of ridiculous, but at least everyone got to taste some.

A. actually cooked the shrimp and lobster tails, using a recipe he found online.


It involved splitting the tails and kind of balancing the meat on top. Better him than me.

The sausage was boudin, the spaghetti had roasted tomato sauce and a lot of butter on it, and the cheesecake was this one (but with some lemon juice added, because I don't think the zest gives enough lemon flavor).

I did not plan well for the cheesecake this year. I forgot to get graham crackers, which is one reason I used that recipe, because the crust is kind of like a shortbread. But I was out of eggs.

Oops.

We tried both the (tiny) stores in our vicinity, each in a different village ten miles from our house, and both stores were closed. We borrowed four eggs from our neighbor, and then we spent Saturday waiting around on our chickens to lay an egg. After several checks of the coop, an egg was triumphantly borne in around noon, and I made the cheesecake.

Hooray for the chickens, the heroes of the cheesecake.

The recipe actually calls for five eggs for the cheesecake filling, but I just used four. It was fine. Or it would have been fine if I had baked it long enough. I followed the instruction to bake it until an inch of the perimeter was set, but even after cooling and chilling, the center was still pretty liquidy. Boo. It did taste good, however, and no one had any trouble eating it.


It also held the candles satisfactorily.

Still kind of annoyed about that, though. And I do prefer the graham cracker crust. This cookie crust was a bit tough.

Monday

Short version: Many leftovers

Long version: There was some shrimp, sausage, and spaghetti left. Some people had the elk stew I had made on Saturday. And then there were leftover cheesecake and baked fruit.

Leftover desserts are the most fun leftover.

Tuesday

Short version: Jambalaya, chocolate pudding with cream

Long version: I celebrate all special occasions with food. Fat Tuesday is definitely a special occasion, especially for those of us with a connection to New Orleans.

Awhile ago, A. was reminiscing about the jambalaya at Popeye's, which was apparently his favorite. So I told him I would make jambalaya for Fat Tuesday.

My mother made jambalaya when I was young, but if she had a recipe, I never got it. I looked at a few online, and then, as I always do, made my own.

I don't have any homemade chicken stock this winter--it's been very sad--but I did have a ham bone in the freezer. Some recipes for jambalaya call for ham. So I boiled the bone with some onion ends for a couple of hours to make a ham stock for the jambalaya. 

I used the ham I pulled off the bone in the jambalaya, along with andouille sausage I already had on hand and a chicken breast I bought specially for this.


All the meats, ready for the rice.

I used the spices in this recipe, which seemed weird--particularly the cumin--but which A. assured me resulted in jambalaya that tasted like Popeye's. I didn't use as much chile powder, though, because I was trying to make this acceptable to those of us in the family who do not like too much spice, and the andouille is pretty spicy.

I used basmati rice, because it was the only long-grain rice I had. When it was done cooking, it tasted good, but was definitely not at all greasy. A.'s main memory of the Popeye's jambalaya, and his favorite thing about it, was the visible orange grease in it. I added about a third cup of lard that had rendered off the pork butt I cooked last week, and that helped with the flavor. It was still not remotely greasy, though. Which makes me wonder how much fat Popeye's is putting in their jambalaya.

Anyway. It was tasty. And a very appropriate Fat Tuesday meal. It was also a very good make-ahead meal, which worked out since I was at both a basketball game and First Communion class (conveniently across the street from each other) until about 5:30 p.m.

The chocolate pudding is not particularly appropriate for Fat Tuesday, but I had some milk that needed to be used. And I didn't mess up the amount of cornstarch this time. 

Wednesday

Short version: Breakfast burritos

Long version: We went to our Ash Wednesday Mass at 5 p.m., which meant we all just stayed in the village after school got out at 4 p.m. So when we got home, everyone was of course famished (particularly the adults, of course, because we had been fasting), and it was late.

Scrambled eggs to the rescue! I scrambled them with cheddar cheese, salsa, and canned pinto beans, then rolled them up in flour tortillas. 

No vegetable. Because . . . I just didn't.

Thursday

Short version: Leftover stew and jambalaya at home, leftover pizza and pudding on the road

Long version: I went to a basketball game in the late afternoon. I brought the pizza and pudding (in a half-pint jar, with cream) for the basketball player to eat in the car on the way home, because they were the most portable leftovers we had. A. fed the other three and himself at home with the elk stew and jambalaya. 

Refrigerator check!


Not bad. Lots of milk.

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

* This is, of course, from a song, appropriately entitled "Jambalaya." It's what I was singing as I was cooking it. Here's the CCR version.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Love Is in the Air . . .

Happy Valentine's Day!


Roses courtesy of Parents' Appreciation Night at the basketball game yesterday, just in time for Valentine's Day.

 I wish all of you a day filled with love.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

In the Kitchen

It is no surprise that I spend much of my time at home in the kitchen. My style of cooking is from scratch in the sense that it is laborious and takes time. This is okay. This is my choice. 

But sometimes I get tired of it. This usually happens on days when I make so many things in one day that I'm in the kitchen for literally hours, just moving from one thing to the next.

I had one of those days on Saturday. I started at 6 a.m. with the bread dough and was mostly in the kitchen for around 12 hours. I mean, not in the kitchen continuously, because I do take breaks here and there, but the majority of my work and time on Saturday was spent cooking. I was very over the kitchen by 6 p.m.

It was, however, a very productive day, and helpful for the coming week, because of course not everything I made was consumed on Saturday. 

Because I was curious, I actually wrote down everything I made throughout the day. 

Of course I'm going to share here with you. You expected something else?

--Coffee. Always first, and always chicory coffee. I make it in a french press.

--Cream of buckwheat cereal for the family's breakfast. It was a cold, snowy morning, and we were out of both eggs and bread.

--Elk stew. A make-ahead for the coming days' lunches or short-on-time dinners.


Elk stew in progress. The things on top are frozen cubes of pureed tomatoes, and the jellied juices left from cooking a pork butt.

--A loaf pan of rendered tallow. Rendered in the oven with the stew.

--Baked strawberries/blueberries. In the oven with the stew and tallow.

--Hot cocoa when the children came in from playing in the snow. Cocoa powder+sugar+salt+vanilla+milk.

--A New-York-style cheesecake, for the next day's birthday.


Before baking.

--Chocolate syrup, for a couple of gallons of chocolate milk.

--Four loaves of sourdough bread.

--Two half-sheet-pan pizzas, the crusts made with some of the bread dough.

--Ranch dressing, for pizza dipping.

--Ricotta cheese, made at the end of the day with a gallon of milk that somehow got shoved into the back of the refrigerator and was way past its use-by date.

I also made things like tortillas with peanut butter and a salad for me, but that's more assembling than cooking.

Anyway. That was my day on Saturday. Most of those things made leftovers and about half of them I still have on hand, so it was a good investment of time. 


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Snapshots: Spring? Not Quite


Decorated for Mardi Gras.


We had to decorate ourselves, too, of course.


I subbed for the preschool teacher on Monday, and it was SO HARD to stay awake during naptime.


Green things outside! Remember the mechanic's pit turned bulb garden? They're sprouting!


Of course, this is what that bed looked like this morning, since it is, well, February.


The (many) cabbage and kohlrabi seeds that sprouted don't mind the snow out their window, though.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Friday Food: A Pork Progression

Friday 

Short version: Beef and rice soup, cheese, fresh bread

Long version: Two children came down with a very nasty stomach flu overnight Thursday, so I spent some time on Friday making beef stock for them to have something to sip on when they wanted to start eating, but couldn't handle solids yet. 

Teenage boys get FRANTIC when they can't eat. They're so hungry all the time, I guess they even feel hungry when they're sick to their stomachs. Poor guys.

I had a lot of soup bones and an oxtail still in the freezer from our last cow, which is what I used to make the stock, in my pressure cooker. There was a lot of meat on those, particularly the soup bones, and I used some of the meat and broth to make a soup.

Soup is not popular with one of my children, but there was also fresh bread, which mitigated the pain of a soup dinner somewhat.

Saturday

Short version: Bacon and egg sandwiches, grape tomatoes, double chocolate peanut butter almond cookies

Long version: A. was at the basketball game with one child while I stayed home with the sick two. Tbe basketball crew got home at 5:30 p.m. I hadn't actually cooked anything, but I did still have a lot of fresh bread, so I made bacon, fried some eggs, and ta da! Sandwiches.

The cookies were these, but with almonds instead of peanuts. These are my favorite cookies, and are therefore dangerous for me to make, but I did it anyway, at the request of one of the children. Willpower is an excellent trait to practice.

Sunday

Short version: Fancy lamb chops, curried vegetables, rice, tomato/cucumber salad, King Cake

Long version: Just a few days ago, we finally butchered the last ram lamb from last year. A. had been waiting to see if he would grow bigger, and he just didn't, so we finally gave up and butchered him. 

Our typical method of butchering is to bone out the meat and mostly just have steaks and things. However, this was a very small animal, so A. thought this would be a good oppurtunity to cut it up the proper way, sawing through bones and everything.

He did, and he was reminded why it is that we typically bone the meat out. It's SO much work (for A., because there's no way I could do it) to saw through bones by hand.

It did result in some fancy little lamb chops, though.


So cute.

These were very much enjoyed by most of the family.

I made the curry because I had a head of cauliflower that had been sitting in the refrigerator for, um, awhile. I finally got around to steaming it like two days prior, and then STILL hadn't eaten it. But I finally did! Yay, me.

The curry was yellow curry powder and garlic fried in coconut oil, then to the bottom of the pan I added a bit of water, some diced potatoes (they were at the bottom in the liquid because they were the only thing that wasn't cooked yet), mostly cooked yellow split peas, chopped cauliflower, caramelized onions from the freezer, and some of a can of collard greens we got from excess commodities. I had opened the can to use some in the beef soup, and they weren't bad. I mean, I wouldn't want to eat them on their own, but they're fine added to things.

At the end, I added sour cream to the curry. More than half the family ate it, which surprised me. It was delicious, if not photogenic.


No one is eating this with their eyes first.

The King Cake was the one my mother had sent me. There was much excitement among the children about who would get the baby in it, and I must admit that I was relieved that I was the one who got it. So much less fighting that way. But then one of my children patted me on the back and said, "That's good, Mom. You probably need the luck more than anyone."

I never thought of myself as particularly unlucky, but okay.

Monday

Short version: Scrambled eggs, leftover curry and rice, chocolate ice cream

Long version: Not really enough leftovers for everyone, so I made the scrambled eggs to bulk everything up a bit.

The ice cream did, too. There was much rejoicing at the return of the gallon bucket of Great Value Chocolate Ice Cream.

Tuesday

Short version: Pork, cornbread, green salad with vinaigrette, rice pudding

Long version: A. came home with one of the biggest pork butts I've ever seen. It was 11.5 pounds. Daunting. 

He had thought I would cut it in half or something, but instead I just put it in the oven whole for several hours to cook slowly. I knew, you see, that I had a couple of days of work coming up, and already-cooked meat would be helpful.

This night I broiled pieces of it with mustard and maple syrup.

Cornbread because I seemed to have a lot of yogurt on hand that needed to be used somewhat promptly.

Rice pudding because the oven was on most of the day for the pork, anyway.

Wednesday

Short version: Toasted pork burritos, raw tomatoes and radishes, chocolate ice cream

Long version: Pork with cheese and salsa, rolled in flour tortillas and lightly fried. A good fast dinner after getting home at 5:30 p.m. from First Communion class.

Thursday

Short version: Pork stir-fry, rice

Long version: Chopped pork, fried in some of its rendered fat. Then I added a bag of stir-fry vegetables from the freezer, some carrots I mostly steamed in the microwave before adding them, the last of the caramelized onions in the refrigerator, ditto the can of collard greens, and then the last half cup or so of cooked yellow split peas. Plus soy sauce, vinegar, and peanut butter.

I was subbing at school, and this was pretty fast. More cooking than I wanted to be doing, but it didn't really take that long. And it finished up the pork.

Refrigerator check!


Not bad. Plenty of milk and cream, which is the most important thing.

You may have noticed in the above photo that I finally got my deli/meat drawer slider fixed so I could hang the drawer properly. The plastic on one slider broke just before Thanksgiving. The part came just before Christmas. And here I am, fixing it just before Valentine's Day. Impressive efficiency, I know. And of course it took all of ten minutes when I finally looked up the video on how to do it. This is the second time I've had to replace this part, but I couldn't remember what I did the first time.

Anyway! It's finally fixed, and I feel very pleased with myself whenever I open the refrigerator and don't see the drawer sitting there on the shelf, piled with random stuff.

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