Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Food: All About the Baby

The poor, neglected fourth child isn't supposed to have any photos of him or herself, but I seem to take way more of Poppy than her brothers. And three of them are right here in this post. Sorry, boys.


Short version: Pot roast, carrots, potatoes, tomato/cucumber/feta salad, baked apples and cream

Long version: When I unwrapped the "seven-bone*" roast given to us by the teacher and her rancher husband, I found a three-inch thick roast that must have weighed eight pounds. The MiL thought maybe it was a chuck roast.

Wherever it came from, it was definitely meant for pot roasting. So I browned it in the morning and put it in my enameled Dutch oven with onion, tomato, and a bay leaf to cook at 250 in the oven for several hours.

I also made a casserole of baked apples to cook at the same time.

About an hour before dinner, I put in some peeled carrots and potatoes to cook, too.

It was very good meat. I have hopes that the whole cow we just arranged to buy from a local rancher will be just as good.


Short version: Chicken tacos, pinto beans, apple pie

Long version: When I was a kid, my mom always made enchiladas when we had out-of-town visitors. Apparently, my meals for out-of-town visitors are pizza and chicken tacos with pinto beans. They are awfully good, though. Convenient, too, as the chicken and beans can be made in the morning, leaving the rest of the day free for exciting activities with the guests.

Or, in this case, leaving the rest of the day free for going to the playground and going up to our new house so A. could plant garlic and I could clean the kitchen cabinets. That's exciting, right? Right.

What is definitely exciting was the apple pie the MiL made for us. The MiL is the pie master. She can whip out an apple pie like I would make scrambled eggs. She made a deep-dish apple pie with just a top crust (so there was more filling for those who don't eat the crust) and it was delicious. Of course.


Short version: Pork chops, rice, green peas, pan-fried sweet potatoes, collard greens with garlic

Long version: An unremarkable meal, except for the fact that I cooked four separate things in one pot.

See, I had my big stock pot out to blanch collard greens for freezing. After I did that, I made the collard greens for dinner.

When I took the collard greens out, I used the same pot to make the sweet potatoes. Already had olive oil in there. Might as well, right?

Then I remembered the head of cauliflower in the refrigerator that was not improving with age, so I used the stock pot to blanch the whole head at once. (Although I didn't make that part of our meal, as I feared cauliflower and collard greens in the same meal might be a bit taxing on the digestion.)

And then, it was time to make rice for dinner, and why dirty another pot?

I find this sort of thing to be very satisfying. Especially when I'm washing dishes and only have one pot to wash instead of four.

Unrelated photo of Poppy exhibiting her pizza, with a large pink bow on her stomach. Because why not?


Short version: Burned brisket, baked potatoes, green salad

Long version: Yeah. I had a piece of beef brisket in the oven in the morning. Then I took Poppy up to the new house with me to do some more spackling and cleaning and forgot to turn the oven temperature down. I came home to a brisket that was quite charred on one side, as all the liquid in the dish had evaporated and the barbecue sauce that was in there had gone past carmelization to . . . well, to burned.

I transferred the meat to another dish and mixed it with more barbecue sauce and chicken stock to reheat later. It was edible, if you don't mind chewing for a really long time on exceptionally dry meat. Luckily, the boys don't notice things like sub-standard meat when there are baked potatoes with butter and sour cream on their plates.


Short version: Shepherd's pie, sauteed zucchini

Long version: Several years ago, I actually followed the recipe in a cookbook I have by Christopher Kimball for shepherd's pie. Though I no longer look at the recipe, I have retained the two ingredients that would not have occurred to me for shepherd's pie: brandy and Worcestershire sauce.

Also, I believe corn and peas are traditional in shepherd's pie, but I never have corn. Instead I use chopped carrots in large enough pieces that Charlie-the-cooked-carrot-hater can pick them out.

Kids are fun.


Short version: Oven-fried chicken, leftover rice, roasted cauliflower, green salad

Long version: Poppy was delighted to have one of her beloved chicken bones. However, the combination of grease from the bone and the snot that had been free-flowing due to her cold meant that she was definitely headed for a bath after dinner.

Jack wasn't quite so greasy (or snotty), but he never passes up an opportunity to have a bath.


Short version: Birthday fajitas, sauteed zucchini, cake

Long version: Poppy is still too young to make her birthday dinner request, so I made fajitas. Because the bag of fajita meat was the first one I grabbed from the freezer.

And because I had peppers. And because I like fajitas.

Even using my big griddle, I still had to cook three separate batches. We eat a lot.

Poppy seemed to enjoy her small bits of meat, cheese, and zucchini. And she really enjoyed her cake.

No need for a fork to get between the cake and the mouth. 

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

* I don't know why it was called this, as there were only two bones in it. The MiL suggested perhaps one of the bones was in the shape of a seven. I can't say I saw that, but maybe I was looking at it from the wrong angle.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Happy birthday to

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The War on Paneling

I am proud to announce that all of the atrocious fake paneling in our new house has either been removed or painted over.

It was a big moment for me when I realized that today. I completed the conquest of the paneling by priming Poppy's soon-to-be room for painting.

Her room, which I didn't get a picture of before I started, was covered floor to ceiling with even uglier paneling than the kind in the living room. You might think that is not possible. It is. This paneling had little dark spots all over it that I guess were supposed to be fake knot holes or something. I don't know. It was awful.

The room is also tiny and, worst of all, it has no window. So try to imagine a miniscule room with no natural light, fake paneling on every surface, and brown carpet.

This is the only picture I got of the wretched paneling. It is, of course, blurry, because there's no light in there. Because there's no window.

I can't put my bubbly little girl in a depressing brown cave.

Not a bear cub; doesn't need to live in a cave.

Anyway, I got it all primed today in preparation for painting, and it occurred to me while I was toiling away in this nasty brown cave-room that we could cut a window in the door for her to get some light in. There's actually a window right across from her door in the hallway, so this would help. We'd have to cover it with Plexiglass or something. I haven't figured out the details, but I'm working on it.

The living room has also been completely primed and is ready for painting.

Overwhelmingly white at the moment, but a vast improvement from overwhelmingly brown.

So the next small chunk of time I have, I can start cutting in by the ceilings and floors, and then it's only a swish (or several dozen swishes) of the roller and I will have a fully painted living room. And Poppy won't have to sleep in a cave.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

My Girl

When I had just the three boys, people would not infrequently ask me if I was "done," or if I was going to "try for a girl."

This is, of course, a ridiculous query. As if I had any say in the matter. You don't "try" for a baby of a specific sex. You try for a baby.

My decision to have another child was not because I wanted a girl. I said that at the time, and I say it now. I meant it then, and I mean it now. I would not have been sad if I had another boy. All I wanted was another child.

And I got one. Which happened to be a girl.

So now people say, "You must be so happy to have a girl!"

Well, no. I'm not happy to have a girl. I'm happy to have this girl. My girl.

I'll let The Temptations take it from here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Friday Family Fun: Send In the Substitutes

This week's Friday Family Fun featured the MiL and Rafael, who stood in for me and Poppy on an adventure into the canyon.

A. had called Rafael to see if he needed help harvesting the rest of his vegetables before the hard freeze that's supposed to hit on Sunday night. The result was everyone but me and Poppy going to Rafael's ranch in the canyon. Including the MiL, who arrived on Thursday night from Tucson for a few days.

Poppy and I didn't go because there was some concern that the road would have too much water on it from recent rains and there might be some hiking necessary if anyone got stuck. For this reason, Rafael drove his truck and A. followed in our Honda. Rafael almost got stuck in mud at one point, but everyone made it out in the end.

Anyway. I wasn't there, obviously, but the MiL kindly took some pictures for me.

There are, of course, cows on the ranch.

There are chickens, too, but I don't have a picture of them.

Because I am well-accustomed to what adventures with A. are like (that is, long and remote), I made sure to quickly throw together some picnic food for him to bring with him for the boys. Cheese, crackers, and nuts and raisins go a long way in making for a fun day without whiny kids.

No picnic tables to be seen. Squatting picnics are common for us.

Rafael gave A. one of his precious calabazas, too. Not a calabacita, which are the immature ones eaten like zucchini, but the mature calabaza. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of it before A. brought it to our new house for curing, but it is indeed quite large. About the size of a volleyball. Also kind of warty. Apparently, we can cook it like a winter squash after it's cured. 

I'll let you know what it tastes like when I do. Stay tuned for that excitement.

The whole trip was about five hours. Poppy and I had lots of time to bond while they were exploring the ranch. This week we'll go back to our regularly scheduled Family Fun with Mommy and Baby, but I can't say I was disappointed to have half a day in a quiet house with just a baby for company.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Food: Finny's Sauce Is Here Again

Wanna see what we ate this week? Oh good! Because I'm gonna show you.


Short version: Pizza, green salad

Long version: The MiL arrived Thursday night with a bag of tomatoes. Less than twelve hours later, I put several of them on a pan with a head of garlic and made Finny's sauce.

I almost went a whole year without making a batch of this. Horrors.

In addition to being The Best Tomato Sauce Ever for pasta and meatballs, it is also The Best Pizza Sauce Ever. And I already had the sourdough going for pizza on Friday. So serendipitous.

I made one pizza with chorizo and onions; the other was just cheese. Both were delicious.


Short version: Floor-picnic grilled Italian sausages, bread and butter, carrots with curry dip, tomato and asadero salad

Long version: See this post.


Short version: Pollo e coniglio cacciatore, spaghetti, steamed carrots and broccoli, sauteed zucchini and garlic

Long version: When we went up to the new house on Friday with the MiL, Cubby asked to bring his .22 for target practice. A. told him he could, and when A. was setting up a target by the woodpile for Cubby, a rabbit ran out.

Unlucky rabbit.

And so I had a rabbit to cook. Rabbit is best when it's stewed for awhile, and I didn't have time to do that on Friday or Saturday. Sunday was the day.

I thought it would be appropriate to make cacciatore--which means "hunter" in Italian--with it. Plus, I had some of Finny's sauce left over for pasta.

My master plan is for A. to teach the kids how to hunt, then I can teach them how to cook, and they can take care of everything. I'm trying to work myself out of a job, you see. Thus, I had Cubby help me make the coniglio cacciatore. (We filled the rest of the pan with pollo--chicken--because one cottontail does not feed six people.)

His hands were not actually moving so fast that they blurred while he was chopping. I just have a 
crappy phone camera.

I didn't actually follow a recipe. Do I ever? Instead we just browned the meat, cooked onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes, added dry vermouth, chicken stock, and a few spoonfuls of Finny's sauce, then put the meat back in to simmer until it was tender. The rabbit didn't get particularly tender, but the kids didn't care. They enjoy tearing resistant meat off the bone.

Of course, since Cubby was helping me in the kitchen, Charlie and Jack must do likewise. Charlie peeled two carrots for me.

With Poppy's help, obviously.

Jack helped me slice zucchini. I don't have a photo of that, as my hands were busy trying to keep him from slicing off the tip of his finger.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, leftover rice or bread and butter, tomatoes and mayonnaise, sauteed mushrooms and onions, sick-boy soup

Long version: Cubby came home early from school with a general malaise that manifested in a headache and upset stomach. He was feeling better by dinnertime and told me he was hungry. So I made him some soup with chicken stock and leftover chicken, cooked carrots, and rice.

The ability to make Spontaneous Soup is a small talent, but very useful.


Short version: Pork chops, mashed potatoes, roasted squash/celeriac/onions, tomato/cucumber/feta salad

Long version: Man, that was some good feta. It's made at the cheese factory where I got all that cheddar cheese a couple of weeks ago. I will definitely be getting more of that next time I'm there.

The MiL brought me the celeriac and squash. She grew the celeriac herself. The squash looked like butternut, but the skin was much darker, so I don't know exactly what it was. Cubby actually liked it, though. Cubby and Charlie have historically been very anti-squash, though I continue to give them some to try every fall. Victory.

I also gave each boy a piece of celeriac to try. Both Cubby and Charlie asked for more. That's more than a victory; that's a miracle. Guess I'll have to grow celeriac next year.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, rice, collard greens, raw mini bell peppers and grape tomatoes

Long version: This was not at all my plan for dinner. I had planned on making a beef stir fry. I had the beef marinating and everything. Unfortunately, my hand and arm were so sore after all my sanding, cleaning, and painting at the new house--and I was so tired--that I just didn't have the physical ability to do all that chopping. I didn't have the mental fortitude either.

In such cases, scrambled eggs save the day.

The collard greens were from our very own garden.

It's looking much more impressive than the last time I showed it to you. Three cheers for A.

I just cooked them in olive oil with a lot of garlic. And I cooked them for at least half an hour until they were soft, because I do not enjoy tough greens. They were delicious.

I don't habitually buy mini anything, but the mini bell peppers were the only non-green ones at the tiny grocery store. And I don't do green peppers. The kids were very pleased with them.


Short version: Delayed stir fry, random hamburgers, leftover rice, leftover mashed potatoes

Long version: Stir fry really takes far too long, what with all the chopping and separate cooking of the individual components and all. It sure is good, though.

This time I used a piece of the fajita beef, marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and garlic powder and sliced very thin. The vegetables were onions, carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers, and I used the same marinade with some cornstarch added to make the sauce.

I had a little meat left that wouldn't fit in the pan when I made hamburgers two days previously, so I fried those for Charlie, who does not enjoy stir fry.

There was some leftover rice, and some leftover potatoes, but not enough of either for everyone, so A. and Charlie had potatoes and the rest of us had rice. Stir fry with mashed potatoes is a little odd, but A. didn't seem to mind. More filling probably than the rice, anyway.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Trailer Improvement

Hey, you know what a one-year-old thinks is hilarious? The sound of sandpaper on a wall. I know this because Poppy has been accompanying me to the new house while her brothers are at school, and watching my attempts to make it less ugly.

"Less ugly" is my design aesthetic, incidentally. Somehow I doubt I'm going to score my own show on HGTV (is that the right one? I don't have a TV so I have no idea) with all my careful improvements to our added-on-to trailer.

On the upside, this is the best house for an impatient person like me to be working on. It was so bad to start with, anything I do will make it look better. Also, I don't care if my children totally destroy it, which they probably will. Sort of the same idea of driving an old beater car so you don't care if someone sideswipes you.

So far I've gotten the walls in the living room spackled, the spackle sanded, and the walls wiped down in preparation for painting. Poppy assisted me in these jobs by trying to stick her fingers in the exposed electrical outlets, pulling the step stool down on herself while I was getting a clean cloth, and breaking my sunglasses.

I got most of the living room ceiling painted today during one of her naps. It was this nasty dark brown that could best be described as "excrement colored." It really needed painting. After I did all I could while she was crawling around, I came home to drop her off * before going back to the new house to paint the ceiling, because there are some things you just don't do with a baby present. Painting a ceiling is definitely one of them.

A. has to do the rest of the ceiling for me, because I couldn't reach. And then I can paint the walls.

This one is not invited for that, either.

It's slow going getting anything done working around a baby and three other kids, but I'm getting there.

* Obviously, A. was home. I didn't just leave the baby sleeping and then drive ten miles away.