Monday, August 3, 2020

How Does My Garden Grow


Does it seem like all I ever write about is food? Yeah, pretty much.

However!

I used to write more about where my food came from, in the form of somewhat frequent garden updates. I sort of got out of the habit of bringing my camera outside to document the growing things, though. But really, is there anything more entertaining than looking at other people's weedy gardens?*

Of course not. So I took my camera outside to give you a (partial) pictorial tour of our sprawling gardens. Let's go!


The second round of Megaton cabbages are just starting to make heads, nestled in their bed against the house, where they get slightly less sun and slightly more water from roof run-off.


The tomato plants got WAY BIGGER than I expected this year. Much bigger than last year, which means I didn't put in big-enough supports to tie them to. There are a LOT of tomatoes on those nine plants and I am so excited for a glut of tomatoes in a few weeks. Barring any catastrophic hail storms, which is a definite possibility here.


After a complete failure transplanting the Moon and Stars watermelons we started indoors, A. put the rest of the seeds in containers against the house, and now we have three fairly large watermelons growing in there. These siblings might have to get moved apart somehow as they get bigger.


This is the backyard garden. The tomato plants are to the right of where I'm standing, and the cabbages are to the left. In those classy tires are some banana peppers A. bought from a nursery. There are a few lettuces among the peppers, and the various kinds of winter squash are, of course, taking over everything. Next year I am NOT putting ANY squash back here. 


Another planting of winter squash. A. stuck these seeds in the ground against that wall in January, just to see what would happen. You can see what happened. Squash really likes it here. There's also a fig tree in that circle of rocks that has about half a dozen figs on it.


Why, is that more squash? YES, YES IT IS. We put these in to see if squash would grow in our back pasture, where there is no shelter from the brutal sun and wind. And the squash said, "BRING IT ON."

There are some more things I didn't take pictures of: basil, green beans, carrots, asparagus, a volunteer watermelon in the backyard that A. is very enthused about.

And! We just pulled out the old Megaton plantation to make way for new beds of carrots, snow peas, sprouting broccoli, and collards for the fall. We hope.

I might have to bring the camera out again for Round Two. Get excited.

*It's actually probably more entertaining to look at those perfectly mulched and mostly weed-free gardens, but much more relatable to see people growing food in the midst of the encroaching weeds. And I am nothing if not relatable, right? Right.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday Food: Sausage to Start, Sausage to End


Friday

Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, boiled potatoes, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: I had a staff meeting at school in the afternoon and needed something quick to cook. Breakfast sausage patties fit the bill.

Saturday

Short version: A variety of meats, rice, raw green beans

Long version: I had just a few uncooked pork country ribs, and then leftover hamburgers and brisket, so those were divided up among the family. Nothing like a smorgasbord of meat to ensure that everyone wants what his brother has.

Sunday

Short version: Fancy steaks, roasted potatoes, roasted green beans, Christmas-in-July cookies

Long version: My parents sent us a variety box of steaks from The Kansas City Steak Company for our anniversary. Since Sunday was our actual anniversary, I made some of the steaks for our celebratory meal. I chose the porterhouse and filet mignon. Two of each, and almost all the meat got eaten. They were really good.

Each box of steaks came with a packet of "Steak Seasoning." The actual spices weren't listed on the packets, but it seemed to be just coarsely ground pepper, salt, and maybe onion powder. In any case, one packet was way more than I needed for the four steaks I cooked, and since there were five boxes (one for each kind of steak), that means I'm going to have a LOT of Steak Seasoning. Luckily, it is also good for roasted potatoes.

The green beans came from our garden. The kids ate theirs raw, as is their habit, but the rest I roasted with olive oil and garlic and man, I just love roasted green beans.

Break for a photo of the food:


And just a few of my rather large cast-iron pan collection.

Miss Amelia called on Saturday to ask if we would take some extra food she was given that she couldn't eat herself and when we went to get it, she gave me two boxes of food. Mostly canned things and dry split peas and rice, but also a bag with different cookies for the children.

Some of the cookies were clearly Christmas cookies, in the shape of bells and gingerbread men and so on. I don't know how one has Christmas cookies in July--maybe they were in her freezer?--but the children didn't care. I tasted one, and they tasted fine, so sure. Christmas in July.

Monday

Short version: Pork steaks, rice, frozen peas

Long version: Nope.

Tuesday

Short version: Ground beef tacos

Long version: The Sysco chub is back!

Wow. That sounded gross. The meat's kind of gross, too, to be honest, but it was fine for taco meat.

I had the best of intentions to make my own tortillas for the first time in awhile, but those good intentions never became reality. As is so often the sad case with good intentions. It's just been too hot lately for tortilla-making to be appealing.

Whatever. The kids ate their store-bought tortillas with nary a word.

Wednesday

Short version: Chicken, rice, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: More of the chicken leg quarters that I separated into thighs and drumsticks.

Have I mentioned how much I loathe separating chicken leg quarters? Breaking the joint, slicing through the flabby skin, keeping a good grasp on the slippery, clammy meat, trying to not get raw chicken juices everywhere . . .

Not my favorite.

Anyway.

I put the chicken to marinate in the morning in olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and dried basil. Also in the morning, I made a batch of Finny's sauce. I made it with canned tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in place of the red wine and even with those dubious substitutions, it is still the best tomato sauce ever. My plan was to make something like a non-breaded chicken Parmesan.

But then when dinnertime came I ended up just browning the chicken on the stove and finishing it in a 400-degree oven. And instead of the rest of the fresh homemade pasta from the freezer I was going to cook, I just served leftover rice.

Some nights are like that. But at least I managed to make the ranch dressing, right? Right.

Thursday

Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, homemade pasta, green salad with ranch dressing, banana muffins

Long version: It was nice to have the sauce already made for the pasta. It made for a very easy meal.

Although the pasta didn't seem to suffer in texture from freezing, it did taste a bit like freezer. Probably because I had it in my small freezer above the refrigerator. It probably would have been better off in the chest freezer. Anyway, once the sauce was on, it wasn't too noticeable. The children certainly didn't notice it.

I made the muffins because when A. went to the post office the previous day he returned with bananas and rice. Not in the mail, but from the lady who runs our post office. People just give us food ALL THE TIME. Must be because of all these kids we have.

The bananas were, curiously, still green on the outside, but pretty mushy on the inside. Cubby really wanted to make banana bread with them, but I made banana muffins instead, so I wouldn't have to have the oven on for an hour to bake the bread.

I used this recipe, but with all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat, and none of the sprinkled stuff on top, and they were good. Definitely not as shockingly sweet as most banana bread/muffin recipes.

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Some Small Slices


Let's just say that these photos and the accompanying explanations are small slices of the bizarre pie that is our life. Because there's really no other connecting theme.

We'll start with yesterday and work back in time.

Slice #1

In the summer, it is often the case that I spend all day trying to get my children to stay outside, and then they go out about an hour before bedtime. That means that then I have a very hard time getting them back IN.

It's very annoying.

On the plus side, though, we do all get to see skies like this as I'm marching them inside by the ear. (Literally.)


The view to the east looked alarmingly like a mushroom cloud.


And the view to the west looked much more impressive in person. (Both photos--plus about two dozen identical ones--taken by Cubby.)

Slice #2

There is a bull snake that hangs around our property. Cubby has named him Howard. Howard is liable to turn up anywhere, but the other day, the dogs' frantic barking alerted us to the fact that Howard had turned up under the bunk bed in the covered porch*.

We put the dogs in the shop to get them out of the way, then A. nudged Howard out from under the bed and out the door. The children were thrilled to be able to examine Howard up close.


Relatively speaking, that is.

Given that Howard is most likely the same snake that struck at me in the chicken coop, I don't feel quite so friendly towards him as the children do. However, bull snakes do eat rats and gophers, so I grudgingly tolerate his presence.

Slice #3

Remember that goldfish pond Cubby was excavating in the back pasture? Well, he hasn't gotten it big enough for goldfish yet, but it was certainly big enough to make a satisfying children's pond when it filled up after several big rains.




Muddy play is the best play.

Okay, I think that's a big enough pie for now. Over and out.

* Yes, there is a bunk bed in our porch, left there by the previous owner. I think his nephews used to sleep out there when they were visiting. We use the top bunk to store junk we don't want the kids to get. The bottom bunk is now a dog bed, and the space under the bed is also a dog den.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

I'm Requesting a Recount


According to our marriage certificate, today is the 17th anniversary of the day that A. and I got married in a little white country church near Blackrock.

That number seems impossible, but I have the paperwork to prove it.

And now for a photo from that momentous day:


Yes, this is a photo of a photo. Because that's the kind of high-quality, professional content you can expect to see here.

Two crazy kids who became two crazy adults with four even crazier kids of their own. It's been a very interesting seventeen years. Who knows what may happen in the next seventeen?

Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday Food: Cubby's Kitchen Kick


Friday

Short version: Leftovers, homemade pasta with pesto, frozen peas

Long version: Did that say homemade pasta? Yes. Do I have a pasta machine? No. But I do have a rolling pin and a knife!

The last time I made homemade pasta was also the only time I have ever made homemade pasta. On that occasion, I made it with my friend Alyssa and we used her pasta machine. It was surprisingly tricky to figure that machine out.

Or maybe not so surprising, given my difficulty with any machine I have ever encountered. I am not mechanically minded.

So I found making the pasta without the machine to be less challenging. Mentally, anyway.

It was Cubby who wanted to make it. He asked me totally out of the blue in the morning if we could make pasta. How could I say no? It's not like we didn't have the ingredients on hand. And since I already had some pesto made and wasn't planning on making anything else for dinner, I said okay.

We used this recipe, mostly because it didn't call for any separate egg yolks. I dislike separating eggs and having parts of eggs in the refrigerator. I did have to add an extra egg, though.

I actually found it easier to just roll the dough out with the rolling pin. I've never been good with machines, and I don't like washing and storing them, so a rolling pin seems more reasonable than a pasta machine to me.

We made the full recipe, which made four piles of pasta that looked like this:


On a chair, because I ran out of counter space during this endeavor.

We cooked two and froze two, but Cubby said we should have cooked all of it. He really liked it. Of course.

Saturday

Short version: Pork neck meat, rice, frozen green beans

Long version: When A. is in charge of grocery shopping, we end up with a lot of . . . interesting meat. This time he bought some pork neck bones, which I had never dealt with before. However, I know the best way to get meat off of bones like that is to simmer them for a long time until the meat is able to be pulled off the bones.

So that's what I did. It was a pain getting all the little bones separated from the meat, but the meat ended up being really good. I fried it in the lard that was rendered out of the meat.

As a bonus, I ended up with a couple of quarts of highly gelatinous pork stock, which I put in the freezer for soups. Sometime when it's soup weather, which is not now.

Sunday

Short version: Oven-fried chicken, garlic bread, frozen peas, roasted sweet potatoes and onions, chocolate chip cookies

Long version: These were the big chicken leg quarters that I separated into thighs and drumsticks. I didn't have yogurt to marinate the chicken, so I just marinated it in salt and vinegar. I coated it in the same mixture of masa and spices and it came out fine.

Cubby took it upon himself to make cookies for our Sunday dessert. He actually asked me at 5 p.m. the day before if he could make them, but I told him he'd have to wait until the next day. He and Poppy made the cookies all by themselves, and they were perfect.

Monday

Short version: Cheater's pizza, leftovers, carrot sticks

Long version: When I made bread on Sunday, I screwed up the division of the dough and two of the loaves of bread were quite small and kind of thin. So I cut them in half horizontally and used them to make cheese pizzas.


The children were pleased.

A. had the rest of the leftover goulash and rice, too.

Tuesday 

Short version: Bunless hamburgers, leftover boiled potatoes and rice, sauteed mushrooms and onions, frozen peas

Long version: When I was organizing the big chest freezer, I counted ten pounds of ground beef left from the cow we got over a year ago. I was very pleased about this, because there is absolutely no comparison between real ground beef and store ground beef.

We hadn't had hamburgers in awhile. All of the children had seconds.

Random old photo from when A. took the children to the mountains:


You can't go anywhere in New Mexico without finding an old church.

Wednesday

Short version: Brisket, Cubby's tomato soup, garlic bread, roasted sweet potatoes/onions/green beans

Long version: Talk about a seasonally inappropriate meal.

One of the other meats A. came home with was an entire brisket, which you may remember is very, very large. I cut it into several pieces before freezing them. This was one of the pieces.

Brisket cooks for so long in the oven, I decided to cook it overnight at 250 degrees. Then I pulled all the fat off, sliced it, returned it to the pot, and put it in the refrigerator to be re-heated with barbecue sauce at dinner time.

Cubby pulled his cookbook out with the intention of making something, and I suggested that perhaps he should try to make something other than various forms of starch. He decided to make "Creamy, Dreamy Tomato Soup," which doesn't actually have any cream in it. All it is is canned tomatoes, garlic, shallot (we used onion), chicken stock, a small amount of brown sugar, and white bread.

It's the bread that makes it creamy when it's all blended together. So, starch and tomatoes, then.

It was very easy to make, though, and good. Even Charlie, who doesn't like soup, liked it. I might even make a larger batch at some point in the fall and freeze it to have some soup on hand for when sickness inevitably strikes. It should freeze well because it doesn't have any dairy in it.

Thursday

Short version: Pork country ribs, boiled potatoes, leftover mushrooms and onions, raw green beans

Long version: It's been awhile since we've had those thick country ribs. I cooked them for a few hours, covered, in the oven in the morning, then at dinnertime added spices and broiled them until they were crispy.

Just before dinner, I went outside and picked some green beans for the kids' vegetable. I just love doing that. I didn't even bother to cook them. The kids like them better raw, anyway.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Photo Dumps Are Fun, Right?


Sure they are. And who couldn't use a little more fun in their lives?

I mean, how fun is this photo of the top of my old stove?


I do not miss this filthy black junk that got all over my kitchen.

Also fun: Blurrily captured acrobatic displays by two-year-olds.


Just after this was taken, she started to actually stand on his head, and I cruelly had to end the game.

Cookies are definitely fun, especially when they're completely made by someone who is not me. That is, by Cubby and Poppy.


Poppy was in charge of the chocolate chips, and she took her job very seriously.

And then there was the homemade pasta Cubby requested we make.


This child has definitely (and unfortunately) inherited my love of simple carbs.

There! Wasn't that fun? Back to our regular, boring lives now.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday Food: Garlic and Birthday Cookies


Friday

Short version: Leftovers, tuna salad sandwiches, frozen green beans

Long version: This was the night I rebelled at doing anything that would further heat the kitchen at 5 p.m. It was already 87 degrees then (in the kitchen--about 99 degrees outside), but since I had already planned for tuna salad and leftovers, it was okay.

The kids had the tuna salad sandwiches and the green beans, still frozen.

A. had some leftover pork and rice, plus some of the immature winter squash I had harvested and sauteed with onions and garlic earlier in the day.

I had some of the squash with refried beans I had made earlier in the day as well, plus some cheese.

And A. prepped some of his harvested garlic for storage this day:


That bag of garlic weighs about as much as that girl in the purple boots. It's a LOT of garlic. And there's still more in the porch.

Saturday

Short version: Chicken, bread and butter, pickled carrots

Long version: Another day of heat and a disinclination to cook. I took out another clearance package of meat A. bought, this one two giant bone-in chicken breasts. Early in the morning, before it was too hot, I poached them. Then I pulled the meat off.

Most of it I made into chicken salad. When I announced this plan to Cubby, he said, "Can't you cook it or something?" No, child, I can't. I'm tired of sweating while I cook. You'll eat it cold and like it.

The carrots were just carrot ribbons--made with the vegetable peeler--and put in the liquid left from when I made pickled garlic scapes. Yum.

Charlie and Cubby chose to have their chicken plain with curry dip to dip it in. The rest of the family had chicken salad. I had my chicken salad on lettuce with toasted pecans and some of the pickled carrots, and it was incredibly tasty.

Sunday

Short version: Ham, potatoes, sauteed immature squash, frozen peas

Long version: A. bought a big 12-pound bone-in ham awhile ago, and I decided to cook it in the morning so as to have a ready supply of protein available for the coming days.

It took about four hours in the oven, and while it was in there, I also put in some potatoes. Just thickly sliced, then put in a covered dish with chicken stock left from making the chicken the day before, plus some thinly sliced garlic, salt and pepper.

Monday

Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, pasta with pesto, carrot sticks with curry dip, ice cream sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies

Long version: This was Charlie's requested birthday meal. He always wants to have pasta with pesto for his birthday dinner. Thankfully, I actually have some good basil plants this year, so I had no trouble making that.

The only things I didn't have for this meal were the sausage and ice cream. The tiny store in the village actually had a couple of tubes of breakfast sausage, so that was taken care of. Ice cream is hit or miss there, and the only kind of ice cream at that store when A. stopped in after church was ice cream sandwiches.

Given the choice of going with ice cream sandwiches or driving 120 miles round-trip to get real ice cream, he went with the sandwiches. With those, and the chocolate chip cookies Charlie also requested and that I baked in a relatively cool kitchen at 6:30 a.m., I made a "cake."


Actually slightly less ugly than my usual Ugly Cake.

The kids were really excited about getting to have both an ice cream sandwich AND two cookies, each.

There are those low standards coming to my rescue again.

Tuesday

Short version: Camp food and leftovers

Long version: Charlie wanted to go camping for his birthday, so A. took all the children the day after. They went to a place about half an hour away.

I packed them leftover ham and potatoes; some antelope bites I had fried the night before after I took the sausage out of the pan; garlic bread I had made when baking bread on Sunday; canned sardines (a surprising favorite among the children); carrot sticks; chocolate chip cookies; and marshmallows.

I had some leftovers and a Sidecar while I watched a movie. Then I went to bed at 9 p.m. and slept until the indulgent hour of 6:15 a.m. It was glorious.

Wednesday

Short version: Antelope goulash with carrots, rice, sauerkraut, green beans

Long version: I made the sauerkraut a couple of weeks ago, just a small amount to see if it would work here.


I also made pesto and hot chili sauce that day. It was very Christmas-y looking.

It worked.

It's been a couple of years since I'd made sauerkraut, so none of the children remembered if they liked it or not. Three out of four did. Hooray! More sauerkraut, coming right up.

Thursday

Short version: Pork steaks, rice, sauerkraut, carrot sticks with curry dip

Long version: I canned the sauerkraut this morning and had one small half-pint jar left that I stuck in the fridge, thinking we'd probably eat it pretty quickly anyway.

And then it was all gone that night. The kids sure do like that sauerkraut. For now, anyway.

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