Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Growing Food: Finally Harvesting

Look what I pulled out of the garden today!

One calabacita, four Stupice tomatoes, two Roma tomatoes (including a green one that fell off when I was checking the vines), and exactly six and a half green beans.

Of course, this is what I'm supposed to be harvesting in early July, not late September. But this year, I take what I can get. And I can get a skillet of vegetables for a side dish today. Hooray.


Sunday, September 24, 2023

Snapshots: Must Be Fall

The First Day of Fall was all over the place online yesterday. For many people, that seems to mean pumpkin spice, fall decor, and cozy blankets. For me, it means an excess of tomatoes and apples.

And there they are, right on cue!

Of course, this year, neither of those are from my own property. My parents brought me the tomatoes, which I think they bought in bulk at Whole Foods. The apples came from a lady down the hill who brought us apples last year. She's a friend of our neighbor Miss Amelia's daughter, so I don't even really know her at all, but I sure do appreciate the apples from her trees.

I had a helper to make applesauce, of course:

No child can resist a Foley food mill.

After a couple of rounds of roasting and pureeing for the tomatoes, I was left with this:

Full jars always make me happy.

Let's see what else I have . . .

Sunflowers and the rising sun.

Sunflowers reflecting the rising sun.

And sunflowers on my table. Along with two computers, because I was teaching online when I was home sick on Monday, which requires one computer for my Zoom meeting and one so I can navigate around the texts we're discussing.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday Food: Fast Food


Short version: Smoked sausage, rice, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I went all the way to the grocery store by myself this day, and while I was there, I took a look at the sausage selection. I can never resist looking for sausage, even though it's usually not very good.

This time I got some smoked pork sausage, which was almost exactly like giant hot dogs. The kids liked it, of course. It wasn't bad. It wasn't really good either, but it was okay.


Short version: Pizza, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: Making bread, making pizza. And this time I didn't screw up my dough, so the crust was delicious. Yay, me. I also got pepperoni at the grocery store, and I got the fancier Dietz and Watson pepperoni that was near the deli, instead of the Hormel or whatever we typically get. It was a lot better than the cheaper stuff. I don't like pepperoni, but this I could actually eat.


Short version: Leftover pizza, sausage and rice skillet, chocolate ice cream

Long version: I started feeling a cold coming on this day, so I didn't really want to cook. Unfortunately, some children got into the leftover pizza while I was resting during the day, so there wasn't enough for everyone. There was, however, leftover rice and leftover sausage, and those two things, along with the sauteed diced onions I had stashed in the freezer and frozen peas, became a skillet offering to fill out the pizza.

Fast food, my way.


Short version: Mexican bull casserole, raw cabbage

Long version: I was still not feeling well, and I stayed home from work. I had a period of slight improvement in the late morning that allowed me to put together the casserole--processed bull meat, black beans. corn tortillas, cheese, and a kind of enchilada sauce I made by pureeing a can of whole tomatoes and cooking it down some with chile powder, garlic, onions, cumin, and paprika.

That was a good idea, since by dinner time about all I felt capable of doing was shoving the casserole in the oven and whacking some chunks off a head of cabbage.


Short version: Spaghetti with sheep sauce, raw broccoli with ranch dip

Long version: We had a ewe literally kill herself with greed on Sunday by eating too much alfalfa hay. Since she didn't die of anything nasty and we found her shortly after she died, we could butcher her. So we did.

The meat has to age for at least a couple of days, which much improves its taste and texture. Because it was too warm to hang it outside--flies were an issue as well--A. quartered it and put the pieces in our big cooler with blocks of ice we made by freezing water in gallon ice cream buckets. 

Meat just chillin'.

We did all the cutting up, grinding, and packaging this day.

I used some of the ground sheep meat to make spaghetti sauce. Very good sauce it was, too.


Short version: Leftovers, cucumbers with ranch dip

Long version: Spaghetti with sheep sauce for the kids, Mexican bull casserole for A., salad for me.

So much for the long version, huh?


Short version: Pork, garlic bread, sauerkraut, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: I cooked a big pork picnic roast in the morning, which I then pulled apart and broiled in some of its own rendered fat. I flavored it with mustard and maple syrup, which is an excellent combination for pork.

Garlic bread because I was making bread, and I had just made pizza.

Sauerkraut because I love it with pork. I only canned about four pints with the spring cabbages, but my parents were visiting and my father also loves sauerkraut, so I decided the time had come to use one of those precious pints.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Growing Food: The Brave Little Basil

I grow basil every year, and always have. It doesn't do as well here as it did in New York, but I always get enough for tomato sauce, tomato salad, pizza, and to make and freeze pesto for the coming winter.

This year, however, was a rough one for the basil. (And everything else.)

There was a point a month or so ago that I thought the basil was done for. I had originally planted out 13 plants. There had been some attrition, but I still had some. Then the hail came. And then the drought. I lost more and more plants, and the few basil plants looked like they were goners.

I counted it out too soon, though. Three of the plants managed to hang on, and they are finally looking like they're going to give me some usable basil.

I am reminded of a Destiny's Child song . . .

I should have enough to make pesto at least once, which I haven't managed yet this year. I've mostly been hoarding the basil for roasted tomato sauce, assuming the many tomatoes on the plants make it to harvest.

As a bonus inspirational plant story, allow me to show you my dianthus.

This is growing, but it's not food.

One of my children brought that home for me for Mother's Day last year. His teacher is a big flower gardener, so she divided the plants from her own garden. This is the best way to get plants, because it means they are guaranteed to grow in my area. 

I didn't have a place in mind for the plant, so I just put it in a pot. I put the pot on top of the wall dividing my vegetable garden, figuring that way I would remember to water it.

I did, and it bloomed continuously for months. I was so pleased with it. Then it got hot. And it wasn't getting enough water. And I thought maybe I had killed it.

However! We got several days of cool weather with a bit of rain, and there are the flowers again. Yay! I really need to put it in the ground. I think in a pot like that it would have to be watered every day, and that's not something I'm going to be doing.

So there you have it. Plants with a will to survive. Let them be a lesson to all of us as we go forth into our Tuesday. 


Sunday, September 17, 2023

Snapshots: Hair Bows and Sunflowers

I truly wish I could share with you all the photos of the eleven adorable little girls that comprise our elementary cheer squad. Alas for the insane Internet and the inadvisability of posting photos of little girls on it. However! I got a sneak shot of one of them and her giant bow. 

"The bigger the bow, the better," said their cheer coach. I think she's right. But only tiny cheerleaders can pull off a bow this big.

Luckily, I can show you allll the sunflowers on the road right outside our gate.

They're the same color as the giant bows, now that I think about it.

We got a sudden and saturating rain storm that dumped half an inch of rain in about 40 minutes.

Adventure Van bore the downpour stoically, of course.

And last, I took a trip to a Walmart entirely by myself on Saturday. It's been . . . well, I'm not sure, but definitely months, if not actually a year, since I went to a grocery store by myself. It was very exciting. Although staring at this for 180 miles to get there and back sort of puts a damper on the excitement.

At least I don't have to battle traffic. Unless you count the birds that seem intent on kamikaze-ing into the front of the van.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Friday Food: The First Stupice


Short version: Lamb chunks, mashed potatoes, carrot sticks

Long version: Our school has a four-day week (with longer days), so we typically don't have school on Fridays. However, we are required to have the Monday off for Labor Day, so we always have school the Friday after Labor Day to make up for that. That means I was at work.

I wasn't really planning on cooking, but I had the boneless leg of lamb roast I had taken out a few days previously that wasn't getting any younger. To cook that faster, I cut it into chunks, which I fried in bacon grease with salt, garlic powder,and zaatar.

And then one of my children was sick and had a terrible sore throat, so I had to make some mashed potatoes. I peeled six small potatoes before I remembered I had a jar of instant potato flakes in the pantry, so I decided not to bother with more peeling, instead cooking the ones I had already peeled and then adding the potato flakes to bulk them up.

Four out of six family members actually preferred them this way. I am not one of them, but then, I don't usually eat mashed potatoes.

In related news, I ate the first Stupice tomato this day.

Butter knife for scale.

Obviously, that tomato wasn't really enough to do much with, so I just sliced it and put it in the pan with my eggs in the morning. I love eggs and tomatoes.


Short version: Tuna salad sandwiches, raw cabbage

Long version: This was not my plan for this meal, but then the one child was still sick and A. was in Santa Fe running errands, so I made a very easy meal for the three children eating.


Short version: Pork, American potato salad, steamed carrots and broccoli, chocolate ice cream

Long version: The pork was a giant package of two sirloin roasts I had taken out the day before. It was much too much meat for one meal, so I did some prep work to make my life easier in the future. Some of the pork I cut into chunks and put back in the freezer. Some more I cut into thin pieces for stir-fry and put back in the freezer. The meat that was too awkward to cut off the bones was what I cooked this day.

I stuck them in my Dutch oven with salt and water while we were at church and cooked them in the oven until they were tender. Then I pulled off the meat at dinnertime and spread it on a pan with some of the rendered fat, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and maple syrup and broiled that until it was crispy.

While the pork was in the oven, I also baked several potatoes. Those were for the potato salad. I make American potato salad about once a year, because only about half the family likes mayonnaise-based potato salad. I decided to make it now because I had dill pickles in the refrigerator (thanks, MiL!), and a proper potato salad must have dill pickles in it.

It was very good.


Short version: Leftover pork, starch variety, raw cabbage, peaches and cream

Long version: I thought there was more potato salad than there was. It ended up being only enough for one child. I had two baked potatoes I hadn't used in the potato salad. I quickly microwaved one more and sliced two potatoes to fry in the pan while I re-heated the pork. The fried potatoes covered two more people.

The other baked potato was scooped out and mashed with butter for the still-sick child.

And the last child got the last bit of macaroni and cheese from a weekend lunch.

A. had bought the peaches at a roadside stand on his way home from Santa Fe. They weren't quite ripe enough to use for dessert on Sunday, so we had them this night instead. Peeled, diced, covered in sugar and cream. 

These were the first--and likely, the last--good peaches we'd had this year. Covered in sugar and cream is an excellent way to enjoy them.


Short version: Spanish tortilla

Long version: Another nuts Tuesday after school meant a make-ahead meal saves the day. Spanish tortilla--this one had potatoes, eggs, bacon, onions, and cheese-- is a very good option for that.

I did not serve a vegetable. The salsa everyone puts on it will have to count.


Short version: Bull 'n' bean chili

Long version: I made this the day before when I was in the kitchen anyway. I used some of the ground bull meat, which I think is STILL too chewy for burgers or whatever. It's fine in a long-simmered chili like this, though, which also had black and pinto beans in it, as well as frozen calabaza from last year's garden.

The calabaza and tomatoes in the chili were our vegetables for the night. Ahem.

But hey! I did manage to dice onion and grate cheese for toppings! So inspiring, I know.


Short version: Pork stir-fry, rice

Long version: Another nuts day after school. I was at school with Poppy, who was cheering at her first volleyball game. A. took the judo run. Another kid was off doing FFA stuff all day and didn't get home until after 9 p.m.

Since I wasn't there when the judo crew were home for dinner, I made the pork stir-fry and rice ahead of time and left them on the stove for them to eat when they got home. 

Most of my food photos are noticeably less colorful and aesthetically pleasing.

I wasn't there because I was with the cheerleader at the first volleyball game she cheered at.

At home, of course.

The cheerleader had a tuna melt sandwich when we got home.

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Will We Make It?

This has been, to state the obvious, a highly unusual year in my garden. According to my previous posts--which is the only way I ever remember anything anymore--this is the time of year I would have quantities of tomatoes, green beans, and calabacitas.

However, thanks to the hail, grasshoppers and other insects, excess rain, and then drought, all of those are quite a bit behind.

I have a couple of green bean plants that are producing a few green beans, but not enough for a side dish.

The remaining tomato plants actually have a lot of flowers on them right now:

Floral arrangement.

And even quite a few actual tomatoes:

These are Stupice, which are typically my First Tomato.

We had two winter squash plants that survived the storm and cucumber beetles. They have half a dozen little squash on them.

This is the biggest one. It's about the size of a soup bowl.

The calabazas I replanted have a few tiny calabacitas on them, too. This is the biggest one of those:

It's about four inches long.

The random watermelon plants A. put in also have some watermelons of the vines.

Two of which decided to grow right next to each other.

This would all be very appropriate and hopeful if it were the beginning of August. But it's not. It's the middle of September. Our nights are already getting cooler. Our days are getting shorter. We can have a frost anytime in October, and none of these plants are cold hardy in the least.

So will we make it? I'm gonna say, barring a reeeeally long and warm Indian summer this fall . . . probably not.

I will certainly get some calabacitas, but I doubt we'll get a fully mature calabaza to store for winter. That one biggest squash might have time to mature, but I don't think any of the others on the plants will. We've already passed the really hot weather that the watermelons need to grow well.

That leaves the tomatoes. I will get some tomatoes this year. I will probably not get as many as the plants would produce, because I think it will get too cool, if not downright cold, for them to grow quickly and ripen well.

We'll see, though. All I can do is wait, because in this situation, as in so many others in gardening, it's all down to nature.