Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Food: The Return of the Ribeye

Yes, I purchased another log of beef for our consumption. Good timing, considering my current diet of meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That is not hyperbole.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, corn tortillas and cheese, steamed broccoli and carrots

Long version: I'm sure someone out there is thinking (humor me), "But Kristin, don't you ever get sick of cooking three meals a day for five people, seven days a week? Don't you ever just get takeout?"

And the answers, in order, are: Yes, I do, and no, I don't. There are many reasons for this. One is that the options here in the sticks are very limited and at least a ten-mile round trip. Another is that it costs too much to feed the five of us even at a cheap place. And last is that scrambled eggs taste better than anything I can get at a restaurant around here.

So when I don't feel like cooking, I cook anyway, just as minimally as possible. Five minutes to scramble eggs and microwave tortillas and cheese, and we can all eat for less than five dollars. It does still make dishes, though, which I actually get much more sick of than cooking.


Short version: Roast chicken, bread cubes, carrots and onions, slothful Harvard beets

Long version: I actually bought a whole chicken at the grocery store, which I never do but which thrilled the children. I was going to roast it over potato cubes, but then I saw the big bag of bread ends I had taken out of the freezer to thaw for making bread crumbs and decided to roast the chicken over that instead. So I spatchcocked the chicken and put it on top of the cubed bread, dousing both in olive oil and Italian herbs.

Instead of becoming like chicken-y croutons, however, the bread cubes got a little too overcooked. At least, the ones that weren't directly under the chicken. The ones under the chicken were delicious. The ones that were more exposed were very . . . crunchy.

They were a noisy affair to eat.

I mostly made the carrots and onions because I had originally put the bread cubes in a smaller pan and then realized it wouldn't hold the chicken, so I had to transfer the bread and chicken to a bigger pan. Then I had an empty oily pan. I figured I might as well use it before I washed it, so I chunked up an onion and a couple of carrots to roast.

Real Harvard beets are made by making a sauce of sugar, vinegar, cornstarch, and butter in a saucepan before adding sliced roasted beets. Slothful Harvard beets are made by randomly sprinkling diced cooked beets with sugar, vinegar, and a chunk of butter and then microwaving it all together. Perhaps not quite as elegant, but certainly tasty.

I think maybe I should call them State University Beets. Because they produce more or less the same result as the Ivy League version with a lot less effort.


Short version: They ate ribeye steaks, mashed potatoes, green peas. I ate steak, rice, mushrooms and carrots.

Long version: This was the day I began an elimination diet to see if I can calm down Poppy's latest terrible eczema flare-up. I could eat the steak, but not the potatoes or peas. So I fried shallots, mushrooms, and grated carrot in bacon fat, added rice, and then mixed in diced steak for myself.


Short version: There is no short version, because we're all eating different things.

Long version: There was one whole ribeye steak left over, so I cut up some of it and added it to the last of some vegetable soup that I couldn't eat (potatoes, beans, and peas) but that I didn't want to throw out. Also a little container of leftover mashed potatoes and another of leftover peas got chucked in there. Waste not, want not! Cubby and Jack ate the Salvage Soup with cheddar cheese.

Charlie has a bit of a delicate digestive system, and after a rough day the day before, it was not going to be happy with a soup full of high-fiber vegetables and beans. So the rest of the steak I cut up and fried in a pan for me and Charlie. He had some leftover rice with his. I had some cabbage cooked in bacon grease and a small microwaved sweet potato with mine.

A. doesn't eat on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays to aid in his digestion. He does drink broth, though, so he had some chicken broth for dinner.

This was the night that I remarked to A., "There are so many special diets in this house, I feel like I'm running a hospital kitchen."

I despise high-maintenance food, and yet, here I am.


Short version: Pork chops, definitely-not-Chinese fried rice, cucumbers with vinegar and salt, roasted sweet potatoes/broccoli/onions

Long version: The only rice I had left was sushi rice. I had made the remainder of the bag earlier in the day. So after I browned the pork chops and had them in the oven to finish cooking--as I always do, because I can't fit all the pork chops we eat in one skillet--I put some diced onion in the skillet to cook, then the rice to fry in the onion/grease/spices. It was tasty, and certainly filling.

We eat a lot of cucumbers when I can get the English cucumbers (the long, small-seeded ones) that are grown in Canada. Only the Canadian-grown ones, though. The ones from Mexico are disgusting, maybe because of the distance they have to travel to get here. The Canadian ones are practically local produce for us. I peel them, slice them into rounds, sprinkle with red wine vinegar and salt, and fight the kids for them. They LOVE these.

Random picture my sister took of me and Jack and Cubby when she was here in January. Just to break up all these wordy words. Check out those stylin' boots. Fashion is ever my watchword.


Short version: Tuna, bacon, fried cornmeal mush blobs, bell pepper strips, nuked birthday cake

Long version: I fried a few pieces of bacon mostly to have the grease to make my dinner, which was half a big can of tuna with chopped bacon, shredded carrot, leftover rice, and some of the leftover roasted broccoli and onions all fried together. It was good, and filling.

I made the boys tuna patties (big can of tuna, bread crumbs, an egg, mayonnaise, mustard, diced shallot).  In the same pan I fried some leftover cornmeal mush from this weekend. If you put the leftover mush in a greased casserole and chill it, you're supposed to be able to cut it into squares and fry them. Except this time I made the mush in the microwave per a recipe from Christopher Kimball and it was still soupy and wet even after being refrigerated. So I beat an egg into the mush and dolloped the mixture into the pan to fry like pancakes. It only sort of worked, but they were still eaten.

Bell pepper strips because I have one that needs to be used up and they only like bell pepper raw.

And Poppy's extra-fancy but unfortunately reappearing half-birthday cake.


Short version: Italian sausage, bread and butter, peas

Long version: I think we eat sausage at least once a week. Whatever. Charlie still wasn't eating solid foods, Poppy was fussy, A. wasn't here, and I was tired. Everyone ate a more or less balanced meal. That's a big win for a day like that.

I took the sausage out of the casing for my dinner and cooked it in olive oil with shallots, a shredded carrot, some diced celery, and leftover rice. Are you seeing some repetition in the food I'm eating? Yeah. And I'm eating it three times a day. Variety is not my middle name.

And now I'm down to some carrots, two beets, celery, a few potatoes, and meat. No other vegetables. No fruit. No sweet potatoes. No rice, even. Very little I can actually eat, as a matter of fact. I was supposed to go to the grocery store in the big village yesterday for a big re-stock when I took Poppy in for her six-month check-up. I didn't go anywhere, however, thanks to the vomiting child, so now I have to go to the small store in the little village today with all four children, because there's no school. Yay.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

All Fun and Games Until Someone Vomits

Yesterday was Poppy's half birthday. I mentioned this to the boys at dinner and said wasn't it too bad I hadn't made a cake to celebrate. Well, a cake for them to celebrate for her, obviously. She's not into cake quite yet.

But wait! With the power of the internet, all is possible!

I got right up from the table and made this chocolate-peanut butter cake in the microwave. The boys were appropriately impressed that I could make a cake that fast. And that the microwave actually cooks things.

Poppy was not quite so impressed. Probably because she was abandoned on the floor while I was making a cake in her honor that she couldn't even eat.

The half-birthday girl and her half-assed cake.

She didn't even get a second-hand benefit from all that cocoa and peanut butter, because of course I didn't eat any of it as it's full of things I'm not eating right now.

Greater love hath no mother than to make cake for her children that she can't even eat.

The boys loved it.

Well, except for Jack, but he never really eats cake. He shared most of his with his brothers.

That photo documents Charlie in a happier time, before he started emptying his stomach of all its contents. Including the cake, which still smelled like peanut butter in the vomit bowl he was using.

Oh, sorry. Were you eating breakfast or something? My bad.

Yes, Charlie was in my room at 1:15 a.m. complaining of a stomach ache, which was shortly followed by the re-appearance of the cake in the vomit bowl I provided to him. He continued to throw up for the following few hours. Somewhere in the middle of it, he remarked wistfully, "That was a delicious cake, though."

Probably better going down than coming up, I bet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Life in the Fast Lane*

This morning while Poppy and I were downstairs shuffling laundry around, Jack decided to accessorize his boring outfit.


Poppy was initially skeptical of his choices.

Perhaps purple really isn't his color.

But she approved after due consideration.

Or maybe she coveted that scarf for herself.

Also of note: When I was turning on my phone to take these photos, Poppy spit up yogurt-y grossness all over the screen.

Kids are fun.

* "Life in the Fast Lane" is a song by the Eagles. You may at first think it is not appropriate to life with children, as it's about going out in a drug-fueled crash, but consider the words of the refrain:

Life in the fast lane
Surely make you lose your mind
Life in the fast lane, uh huh
Life in the fast lane
Everything, all the time
Life in the fast lane, uh huh

Seems about right to me.

Monday, April 16, 2018

My Food Has a Case of the Mondays

Okay. I had three whole days of eating like a normal person after I decided to start consuming dairy/gluten/caffeine again. Poppy's eczema had by no means cleared up after a week of avoiding those things, and she had even had a couple of bad days. So I thought, "Didn't work. Back to coffee!"

Wednesday night I went to bed feeling like a little kid on Christmas Eve, because it was Coffee Eve. The very next day I was going to drink coffee. I could get up in the morning and have my beloved coffee with chicory! And milk! And a tiny bit of sugar! (I use literally about an eighth of a teaspoon per cup.)

So I did. And it was glorious. I was using milk, eating cheese, even having the occasional piece of bread.

And then Poppy's eczema straight-up blew up. She's in the middle of the worst flare-up yet, red and itchy and not sleeping. Bad news.

Thus, I determined yesterday that I really need to do a real elimination diet, because man, it's the saddest. I don't know if what I'm eating is affecting her, but since she's still exclusively nursing, it seems like a reasonable assumption. And at least I feel like I'm doing something. Other than holding her hands so she can't claw at her skin, that is.

As of yesterday, I'm not eating dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, nuts, legumes, the nightshade vegetables (that includes white potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes), or citrus.

I sort of just decided on all these on my own, figuring that way I would hit the most common allergens all at once.

I am, however, still drinking a cup of coffee, albeit a very weak brew of it with about four drops of maple syrup in it.

Definitely not cafe au lait, but better than tea. I had even stopped drinking the tea after a few days, because I really didn't like it too much and there didn't seem much point. After a week of no caffeine at all, however, I can confidently state that I just do not function at this point in time without caffeine. If I were sleeping, that would be one thing, but I'm not. In order to care for the rest of my family and not feel like I have the flu all the time, I need some caffeine.

So. One cup of coffee and a LOT of meat and vegetables. That's it for the next couple of weeks. Wish me luck. And cross your fingers for Poppy's poor skin.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Food: Soldiering On

Yes, I cooked this week. We ate this week. Let me tell you all about it in great detail.


Short version: Sweet Italian sausage, fried leftover potatoes, leftover peppers and onions, white beans, peas

Long version: I actually cooked dried beans this time, because I found half a bag of navy beans in the pantry that I figured should be used up. Otherwise, everything was exactly the same as all the other times I make Italian sausage. Which is a lot, because sausage is basically a pre-seasoned, quick-thawing, tasty convenience food. Hooray for sausage.


Short version: Shepherd's pie

Long version: Should it be called shepherd's pie if I made it with beef? Shepherds don't herd cows. Is it a rancher's pie? Is this an obnoxious query? Yes.


Shepherd's pie is a lot faster to make if your ground beef isn't frozen when you start. Especially if you're starting with two pounds of it to make a full 9x13 casserole full.

I know. My professional cooking tips are what keep you coming back.


Short version: Beef and vegetable stir fry, rice

Long version: I ran out of my standard soy sauce and was left with only the weird "mushroom flavored" soy sauce I bought by mistake some time ago. So I used that, and it made the stir fry taste a lot more like cheap Chinese food. Not in a bad way, though. It was good, but it definitely tasted more like restaurant food. I'm pretty sure this is because of the "caramel coloring" and MSG-like substances listed in the ingredients. Wholesome.


Short version: Barbecue beef sandwiches, beets, green salad

Long version: I have quite a few beef soup bones that I need to use, so I made some beef broth in the morning. When I strained the broth, I pulled about two cups of meat off the bones, which I used to make sandwiches for the boys by elegantly dumping store-bought barbecue sauce in with the meat.

All fancy food, all the time.

Amazingly, all three boys love beets. Cubby used to be the only one who ate them, but then last summer they all discovered that eating beets makes their teeth pink, which is of course all it takes to get kids to eat beets, right? Well, my kids, anyway. These were grocery store beets, which were definitely inferior to garden beets, but that's no surprise. And the boys still ate them.

In other domestic news, letting Jack vacuum the couch for me is the best idea I've had in awhile. He loves it, and it means there isn't a shameful mess lurking under the cushions. Hooray.


Short version: Pork chops parmigiana, pasta, peas, fried cabbage and onions

Long version: A.'s favorite method of preparation for meat--any meat--is fried in olive oil, then simmered in a marinara sauce and covered in melted mozzarella cheese. So I did that with the pork chops, and then used some of the sauce for pasta.

I fried the cabbage and onions in bacon grease instead of butter this time, because I wasn't eating dairy at that time (another experiment to try to help out the itchy baby). I also was not drinking any caffeine or eating any gluten. I would not recommend doing this with chronically low sleep, by the way. Punishing.*

Maybe she's punishing me because of the outfits I put her in. Definitely not an infant fashion plate.


Short version: Re-imagined leftover pork and rice, leftover beets

Long version: "Re-imagined" means I did something with leftovers other than just heat them up. In this case, I diced the leftover pork chops and fried them in some olive oil, then added the leftover rice and the marinara sauce from the pork chops along with some grated Parmesan. Fancy.

Leftover beets can never be fancy. Convenient, though.


Short version: Soft tacos, roasted sweet potatoes/bell peppers/onions

Long version: I made the taco meat this time from ground beef (plus onion, garlic, chile powder, and cumin). This was one of the nights that Cubby had a huge second serving of meat, and so of course Charlie and Jack must do the same, and then the entire pound and a half of meat was gone.

This competitive eating will really be something to behold when they're all teenagers, I suspect.

When onions kind of come apart on the pan and the thinner layers char a little during the roasting, the charred ones taste a bit like onion rings. Without the greasy batter coating, that is. Yum.

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

* I have since resumed drinking coffee, and the relief is absolutely indescribable. But I'll probably describe it anyway in a whole post next week. So stay tuned for that thrilling story.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

From Bad to Worse

I have become something of a belated watcher of 1980s action cartoons. Specifically, Transformers, Voltron,  and He-Man. The only one I remember watching myself as a kid was He-Man, but A. remembers them all fondly and wanted to share them with our sons.

Thus, the boys have watched every single episode of all of them. And they are all terrible. Well, terrible for an adult, anyway. The kids love them. In order of terribleness, from bad to worse, I think it goes Transformers, then He-Man, and then Voltron is the cheesiest of the bunch.

But now I have seen the absolute worst, and it is Protectors of Universe.

No, it's not missing "the" in the title. Or rather, it is missing it, but it's like that on purpose, apparently. Because it turns out this is a 1983 South Korean knock-off of Voltron. I guess the "the" got lost in translation.

Cubby brought it home from school. He chose it from the prize box in his class, and he was very excited, explaining that it was Voltron's brother.

Yeah, Voltron's inferior and highly irritating brother.

The animation is terrible. The story--such as it is--is abysmal. And the English dubbing is absolutely laughable. Only not very funny.

But it has the requisite blasting sounds and action scenes, and so the boys have actually watched the worst movie in the entire world.

And so have I. Ugh.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Friday Food: The Easter Dinner Rebel


Short version: Scrambled eggs, tortillas and cheese, curried cauliflower

Long version: We always buy corn tortillas and I microwave cheese on top for a cheater's quesadilla. The boys put their scrambled eggs inside the cheesy tortillas for a kind of breakfast burrito.

The curried cauliflower was just steamed cauliflower with shallots and sweet yellow curry powder. After the cauliflower had steamed, I drained the water, added oil to the pan, quickly cooked the sliced shallots, and then fried the curry powder and salt for a minute before adding a bit of heavy cream. It's very important to fry the curry powder in oil before adding any liquid, or else it has a very unpleasant sharp flavor that you really don't want to eat.


Short version: Sweet Italian sausage with bell peppers and onions, pasta with tomato sauce, green salad

Long version: The tomato sauce was the leftover pizza sauce from last week, with a little cream added. Because cream makes everything better.


Short version: Cheeseburgers (with buns!), french fries, milkshakes

Long version: Yes, we ate cheeseburgers for Easter dinner. I'm the cook around here, and I do what I want. Plus, grocery store ham is wet and gross.

I made hamburger buns for a special treat, though. We usually just eat the patties without buns. I used this recipe, but with all white flour. I made 3/4 of a recipe, because I only had one egg left on Friday night, when I needed to start the fermenting process. Stellar planning, yes. I was going to make a half recipe, but it didn't really look like enough, so I just figured that extra 1/4 of the recipe would be okay without another egg. It was. Yum.

The french fries were also special, because instead of making everyday oven fries, I did the full-on frying in a cast iron pan. I used this method.

There's a whole lot of fryin' goin' on. Also a whole lot of cast iron.

We ended up having a taste test, because I only had enough lard and tallow for one 12-inch pan full of fries, so I did another 12-inch pan with canola oil. A. tasted them blind and actually misidentified which was fried in tallow. So there you have it. Use whichever one you have. They both (or rather, all three) make kick-ass french fries.

I only had grocery store beef, so the burgers were nothing special, though I did make "special sauce" for them with mayonnaise, ketchup, and finely diced shallots. The shallots were the best part of the entire hamburger, in my opinion.

I would always rather have a (chocolate) milkshake over pie. And milkshakes are way easier to make. Even if your blender breaks halfway through the blending and you have to finish in a food processor. Ahem.

Other than some token romaine lettuce on the hamburgers, we didn't have a vegetable. I figure if my kids consume an entire "milk chocolate flavored" bunny each at 7:15 a.m., the day is pretty much a loss nutrition-wise anyway.

Oh, and look! I took a picture! Of our actual food!

Look at me, all food bloggy and stuff.


Short version: Lazy sloppy joes, sauteed broccoli/carrots/onion

Long version: I had some ground beef left over from Sunday, so I browned it with diced onion, dumped in barbecue sauce, and served it on the last three buns also leftover from Sunday. Boom.

There was half an onion left after I made the sloppy joes, and I hate storing onion in the refrigerator (so smelly), so I sliced it and cooked it with broccoli and carrots in the pan still on the stove with bacon grease in it from making eggs in the morning.


Short version: London broil, sauteed mushrooms with shallots, mashed potatoes, peas

Long version: When I have large pieces of lean meat like London Broil, my preferred way of cooking it is to sear it in a cast iron pan until it's nice and crusty, but still pretty raw in the middle, then take it out and put it on the cutting board while I make a sauce. Then I slice the meat and add it right back into the sauce to cook a little more. The meat gets coated better that way, and I don't have to worry about overcooking it when it's a whole piece.

The sauce this time was diced shallots, whole grain mustard, a little water, and heavy cream.


Short version: All roasted things--Chicken thighs, carrots, potatoes, bell peppers/onions; and cannellini beans

Long version: You may have noticed that this is the first time since I've been doing these posts that I have ever cooked chicken. That's because I never buy chicken. I find chicken to be kind of a grody meat in general to deal with, and that goes double for grocery store chicken. The kids like it, though, and I happened to be at the grocery store yesterday where chicken thighs were on sale, so I got a package. I just seasoned them with salt and random Italian seasoning mix, put them right on top of a pan of carrot and potato chunks, and roasted it all along with another pan of bell peppers and onions.

The beans are so easy, but so good. Quickly cook a couple of cloves of mashed garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, add a can of rinsed and drained cannellini beans and some kind of herb (thyme, oregano, basil . . . this time I used the same random Italian herb mix). When it's all heated, it's done. I love these. So do Cubby and Jack.


Short version: Pork chops, baked potatoes, cabbage and onions, baked apples

Long version: After I browned the pork chops in a cast iron pan on the stove (salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lots of paprika), they went in the oven on a half-sheet pan to finish cooking along with the baked potatoes. There was quite a lot of spice crust on the bottom of the cast iron pan, so I fried a sliced onion and some cabbage in there to take on the flavors. The boys ate their cabbage raw. Crazy kids.

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

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Maple Discovery

I'm not drinking my beloved coffee with chicory this week. It's an experiment to see if Poppy's eczema gets better without it.

I really do hope it works for her sake, though I must admit there's a small part of me that hopes it doesn't work, for my sake. It's not so much that I rely on the caffeine in the coffee as the fact that I really like the flavor of strong coffee with lots of milk. It's a comforting start to the day.

The cup of black tea with cream I've been drinking instead is literally a pale imitation of my coffee. A tannic, watery, definitely not as comforting start to the day.

However! I have discovered something good in the process of drinking tea every morning. One of the things I dislike about tea is that I feel it needs sweetener to make it less tannic and drinkable (for me), but I don't much enjoy the white sugar I usually use. And so I tried maple syrup.

Much, much better.

The maple flavor goes well with the tea, and it seems to go farther than sugar. In that I don't need as much of it for the tea to be drinkable.

Tea with maple syrup and cream is still a sad substitute for chicory coffee with milk, though. Boo.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Rural Adjustments

We had to get dressed up on Saturday night for the Easter Vigil Mass at church*, during which A. was baptized and confirmed. These sacraments take place during the service and required the whole family to be processing down the center aisle and very much on display. So I thought I should probably make the boys wear actual shoes. As opposed to their snow boots, that is, which is what they usually wear to church this time of year.

Everyone else wears boots to church, too. It's kind of a necessity when there's three feet of snow on the ground.


The boots are fine normally, but they are awfully loud. Those three boys stomping their way up the aisle sound like an invading army. Not exactly the solemn procession the priest was envisioning, I'm pretty sure.

Getting from our car into the church isn't a problem, as there are cleared sidewalks in the village. Getting from our house to the car, however? That's 30 feet of mud, ice, and snow. In other words, shoe-destroying territory.

For that reason, A. put on his muck boots and carried each boy out to the car individually when we left. He left his muck boots on and changed into his dress shoes when we got to church. And I wore my snow boots until we got in the car at home, at which point I changed into high heels. Because traversing the path to the car in high heels would be even stupider than doing it in regular shoes.

It was a very nice service, though, and we all looked pretty good. No mud anywhere.

The only photo I have of most of the family was taken by eight-year-old Cubby in a dim house past the baby's bedtime. Which is why it looks like this:

Pretty much her mood during the entire two-hour service.

I hate to leave you with that image, though, so let's end with this one, instead:

Much better.

* This is a two-hour (or longer) church service that starts after dark so the service can begin in a dark church with an open fire in it. The fire is contained in a metal basin, but still. Open fire. It was a real challenge with four little kids, but was definitely a neat experience. It was the most concrete example I've ever seen of the way Christianity borrowed rituals from more-ancient religions.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Easter Scene

The chocolate bunnies have been consumed. The dyed eggs have been found. The kids are still in their jammies at 9:30 a.m. and there's a whole lotta sugar-fueled screaming goin' on.*

Happy Easter from our crazy crew to you.

* Indoors, thanks to the weather--30 degrees, 25-mile-an-hour wind, and snow. Thanks a lot, Mama N.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday Food: Yes, My Sons Eat Beaver Tails

First, let me just say how much I enjoyed all the comments on the last post. Who knew so many people have been reading for so long? Fun. And now, food.

If you want to skip straight to the beaver tail, that was on Monday. If you want the whole looong explanation of the week's food, please do continue.


Short version: Tuna noodle casserole, peas, vegetable soup

Long version: I actually managed to get Poppy down in her crib to sleep in the afternoon, so I got all ambitious and started making tuna noodle casserole. And then she woke up ten minutes later, which meant I had to finish it with her kicking on a blanket in the kitchen and Jack "entertaining" her.

Tuna noodle casserole was a staple of my childhood. I know I used to make it for my family sometimes (I know because of the infamous incident when I made it and forgot to put in the tuna--whoops), but I don't really remember how I made it then. Except it involved cream of celery soup from a can, which is not something I have ever purchased as an adult.

Speaking of my family, my sister took this photo when she was visiting a couple of months ago:

My first thought was, "That's kind of a big family." You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but it still looks like a lot of people when we're all in one photo.

Back to the present-day tuna noodle casserole . . .

How I made it now was to cook diced onion and celery in butter, add some flour, then milk until thick, then a whole bunch of cheddar cheese and some mayonnaise. I mixed this sauce with the cooked (gluten-free corn) pasta (edited to add: and the tuna!--see the comments) and then added more cheese. Then some more.

You always need more cheese than you think you will.

I would have covered the top with breadcrumbs mixed with melted butter, but I didn't have enough bread crumbs and was too lazy to haul out the food processor to make more. So I just covered the top in more cheese. Seemed reasonable. Baked at 350 until done.

Frozen peas.

Vegetable soup using some leftover beef juice from cooking the roast last week, and a bunch of vegetables. Man, I love vegetable soup. You may have figured that out by now.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: We were away from home all afternoon and the kids ate various treats while we were out, so they weren't hungry for dinner when we got home at 5 p.m. Luckily, there were lots of leftovers. I cut up a cucumber with vinegar and salt for everyone to eat while I put away groceries. A. and I ate chili, and the boys ate tuna noodle casserole later. It's always a weird day when I don't cook.


Long version: Pizza, crudites

Short version: I see with some frequency online something like the following, "Friday is always pizza night at our house! It's so easy and the kids love it!" I always think, "How exhausting."

But then, most people don't make pizza like I make pizza. It's a significant process. Sure is incredible pizza, though.

I cut it with kitchen shears. This kind of pizza has a really thick crust, so the shears work best.

We had the bell peppers and carrots again because Charlie and Jack kept trying to steal the peppers when I was cutting them for the pizza, so I gave them some of their own while I was cooking and then they requested carrots too. Okay, twist my arm, guys.


Short version: Beef and broccoli, rice, and . . . beaver tail

Long version: Thinly sliced top round London broil stir-fried with broccoli with a sauce blahblahblah, let's just get to the beaver tail, shall we?

Yes. It was the actual tail of an actual beaver. It's not even the first time we've cooked one. And by "we," I of course mean "A." Because this is the sort of thing that happens when he gets in the kitchen. (Tails and testicles. Sounds like a best-selling cookbook to me.)

We first came across the idea of eating a beaver tail in the book Meat Eater by Steven Rinella. He cooked his beaver tail directly over a campfire, held aloft on a stick. I mentioned this to Cubby, who of course was immediately captivated by the idea and made A. promise that if he ever had a beaver tail in his possession, they would cook it and eat it.

Cut to some time later when A. had a beaver tail and cooked it in the barrel stove in the barn, in much the same manner as Steven Rinella and his campfire. He portioned it out among the boys and they all devoured it. They were disappointed there wasn't more of it. I tried a small piece. It mostly tasted like smoke (beaver tails have a ton of fat, so they cause lots of flare-ups and thus, a lot of smoke) with the texture of fish. Eh. Not good. Not bad.

Anyway, A. had another tail on Monday, so he cooked it the same way for the boys. Again, they eagerly ate it and complained there wasn't enough of it. So that was their appetizer for the perfectly average dinner I had planned.

This is what life with A. is like.


Short version: Pork roast, potatoes, carrots, sauteed mushrooms and shallots, green salad, baked apples

Long version: You may have noticed that when I have the oven on, I cook as many things as possible in it. So the pork roast (not sure of the exact cut, but it was an enormous bone-in one) was in most of the day at 300 degrees. I made the apples in the morning. After they were done, I put them away and later used the same casserole dish to cook some carrot spears. The potatoes I peeled and tucked into the liquid around the roast to cook for the last 45 minutes or so.

I sauteed the mushrooms and shallots in the bacon grease left in a pan from frying eggs in the morning.

After the roast was tender enough to pull the meat off the bone, I poured off the liquid, mixed the pulled-apart pork with whole-grain mustard, apple cider vinegar, and a little maple syrup, then put it back in the oven under the broiler to get a little crispy.

It was really good, although we did spend the entire meal watching Charlie meticulously pick all the whole mustard seeds off of his meat. It really added to the dining experience.


Short version: Leftover pizza, pork, and carrots (but not all together), and baked beans

Long version: I love baked beans. When I was single, I always had a can of Bush's baked beans on hand. I can't eat them anymore because my taste buds have changed and I find them far too sweet and syrupy now.

A. was raised with proper Boston baked beans, cooked by the MiL in a traditional baked bean pot. She even gave me her extra pot and the recipe so I could make real baked beans. I used to, but there are two problems with traditional baked beans: One is that they take forever in the oven, so you really need to plan ahead. And the other is that it makes a lot of baked beans, and then you have to eat baked beans for days.

So, while I do love real baked beans cooked in the traditional pot, what I actually eat these days is a brand of canned baked beans called Grandma Brown's. They're made in a village named, amusingly, Mexico, NY. We pass the factory on our way to and from Blackrock. It's nice that it's a relatively local product, but what I really like about them is the minimal ingredients list: water, navy beans, brown sugar, bacon, salt, and baking soda. Nothing weird, not too much sugar, and delicious. Thank you, Grandma Brown.


Short version: Leftover pork, leftover potatoes, green salad

Long version: I sent the boys out at 3:30 p.m. for their mandatory outside time and they reappeared at the door at 4:45 p.m. absolutely plastered in mud. Like this, except there were three of them, and more clothes. So by the time I got them all in and out of showers and baths and their clothing somewhat dealt with, it was past the time I should have started dinner. Good thing I had planned on leftovers.

There was quite a bit of pork left from Tuesday. I cut it into chunks, which I fried in lard with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I did the same to the leftover potatoes from Tuesday. The reason I used the paprika was because Jack and I had experimented with dyeing eggs using various things we found in the kitchen, including paprika.* I had used about two tablespoons of paprika in a small jar of water. The paprika had mostly settled to the bottom, so I poured off the water on top and used the paprika sludge to cook with.

Paprika sludge is the next big thing in food. You heard it here first.

Anyway, it made Charlie happy, as three-quarters of his plate was covered in pafreaka. He didn't even notice that his salad dressing had whole mustard seeds in it. Ha ha.

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

* We also tried tea bags, coffee grounds, and onion skins. All these things resulted in various shades of light brown. Not exactly the colorful rainbow we were going for, but eh. They're not white anymore, right? And I didn't have to drive fifteen miles to buy an egg-dyeing kit or deal with that annoying wire egg holder thingie. Maybe next year I'll plan ahead better and get some beets and turmeric to make some actual colors.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Decade Mark

Oh, hey. Just checking in today to let you know that I started writing this blog ten years ago today.

Ten years. 

That's crazy.

I suppose I should have something profound to say right now, but frankly, I'm too tired. So let me just say this:

Thank you to all of you who read this, and especially all of you who comment. To be truthful, that's often the only non-family interaction I get most days.

Should I not admit that? Maybe.


Happy ten years to Going Country. Let's carry on, shall we?

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Tooth Fairy Gets Tricky

I have an unfortunately ambivalent attitude towards the standard childhood magic characters. By which I mean Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I just can't go all in and weave elaborate stories and stage elaborate scenarios involving these characters. Neither do I flat-out deny their existence.

Mostly, I evade any direct questions. So far, Cubby and Charlie seem to take their classmates' word that these things are real. So they get stockings from Santa at Christmas (but not presents, because I want some credit for getting them the fun stuff, thank you) and Easter baskets hidden by the Easter Bunny.

And then there's the Tooth Fairy.

Cubby has been losing quite a few teeth lately, and A. as the Tooth Fairy has been leaving him a quarter for a tooth. Unfortunately, Cubby's classmates have also been losing a lot of teeth lately, and at least one parent has screwed the rest of us by handing out a dollar per tooth. A dollar! For a bloody tooth! That is not going to happen.

Of course, Cubby complained. I told him that I'm pretty sure the Tooth Fairy stops coming if you complain. Then he asked me if I was leaving him the quarters. Luckily, I could truthfully say that I had put no quarters in his room. Then he asked A. and I distracted him by asking him if he wanted to help me finish dinner.

Distracted, but not forgotten. I just found a note on his bedside table that read:

Dear Tooth Fairy,

Please do not take my tooth. And please leave me $1. And if you are Mommy or Daddy, please sign here ___________.*

He hasn't lost another tooth yet, so I'm not sure how A. is going to handle this. I guess he just won't sign. I certainly won't.

* I took the liberty of correcting the spelling here for you.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fourth Time Around

Yesterday as I was preparing to kick the boys out for their mandatory outdoor time, I thought, "Hey, it's 42 degrees outside and not too windy. I can take Poppy out if I can find something to put over her clothes to keep her warm."

Could I find such thing? Oh yes, indeedy. Brace yourselves for the return of . . .

The Cubby Suit: Take Four

Yes, Poppy is the latest baby to be dressed as an adorable if somewhat ridiculous bear. The MiL bought that suit for Cubby before he was even born

Charlie wore it

Jack wore it

And now Poppy can wear it.

When Cubby saw her, he grinned and said, "Hey, the bears are waking up for spring."

They sure are, my clever child. And so are we.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Food: Rewind a Bit

It has occurred to me that there is no point in just speculating about what I'm going to be making for dinner on Friday before I make it. You need the hard-hitting facts, not idle speculation, right? Right.  So from now on, I'll just tell you what I made the previous Friday. That way, these posts can be even longer. Whee!


Short version: Eggs in tomato sauce, black beans, roasted bell peppers and onions, cornbread

Long version: I made the tomato sauce with diced onion, mashed-up canned tomatoes, roasted garlic, cumin, and chili powder, spread in the bottom of a Pyrex dish. Over that I cracked many eggs and put it in the oven with the other stuff that was cooking. When the eggs were cooked (hard, because I don't do runny yolks), I sprinkled on some grated cheddar and let it melt on top.

The oven was on to roast the bell peppers and onions. When I say "bell peppers," I never mean green ones, because those are gross. I almost always buy red, but anything other than green is okay.

The oven was also on to make cornbread. I very rarely make cornbread because the recipe I use for all-cornmeal cornbread is from Cook's Illustrated, and is thus a pain in the ass. It does reliably turn out good cornbread, though, as my cornbread-guzzling children will tell you. They like theirs with butter and honey. I prefer maple syrup.

The black beans were canned, but rinsed. I added cumin, garlic powder, and vinegar to them, because that is always what I do to black beans.


Short version: Pork, baked potatoes, carrot sticks with ranch dressing

Long version: A. bought country-style pork ribs. I like those the best cooked on the grill, but the grill is currently doubling as a snow sculpture at the moment.

Dramatic, but not very functional.

I covered them in lots of paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and cooked them in a 400-degree oven until they were done.

The potatoes were enormous Idaho potatoes that A. had also bought. I don't know about you, but I find baked potatoes to take far too long in the oven unless I use this genius trick from my hero Jacques Pepin: Microwave the potatoes for a couple of minutes and then finish them in the oven. Potatoes cooked entirely in the microwave have a weird gummy texture, but if they're just partially cooked in the microwave before finishing in the oven, you can't even tell they were microwaved. And those giant potatoes were only in the oven for 30 minutes.

I have Strong Opinions about baby carrots, and so you will never see them in my house. You will, however, frequently see carrot sticks, especially when I already have ranch dressing made.


Short version: Beef, rice, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: I had one big bone-in chuck roast left, so I covered it in salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and put it in a foil-covered pan in the oven at 300 degrees. It stayed there longer than I had planned, as I was pinned in my chair by a sick, snotty baby who finally fell asleep and I was afraid to get up lest she wake up. So the roast cooked for about four hours. It was fine, though. I pulled some of it into pieces and fried them in a pan with olive oil and four mashed cloves of roasted garlic for me and A. Yum. The kids didn't have the extra garlic on theirs.

Rice is rice. Basmati, because that's all we ever have.

When I cook broccoli, I almost always cook carrots, too. That's because I recently had the inspiration to cook them both at the same time in one pot. See, if you put the carrot pieces on the bottom and mostly cover them with water, then put the broccoli pieces on top of the carrots, the carrots boil in the water while the broccoli steams, and they cook for the same amount of time. This is handy, because Charlie loathes cooked carrots, but likes broccoli; and Jack doesn't care about broccoli, but likes cooked carrots. And I like to have both on hand for my salads.


Short version: Tacos, black beans, Mexican slaw, leftover broccoli and carrots

Long version: I used the beef left from the big roast on Sunday to make soft tacos for the kids. I fried it in tallow until it was crispy, then added it to corn tortillas microwaved with cheese on them, plus black beans left over from Friday, and sour cream. We always eat corn tortillas, because Charlie and A. don't do well with (unfermented) wheat flour products. Only certain brands of corn tortillas work for soft tacos, though. Namely, La Banderita. Other brands aren't soft enough and just fall apart if you try to roll them up.

Mexican slaw is something I made up, though I'm sure it's an established thing if I cared to look. It's thinly sliced cabbage, finely diced onion, garlic, vinegar, cumin, and salt. The earlier before eating it's mixed together, the better it tastes. I prefer this to lettuce with taco meat. It adds more flavor, especially when I don't have salsa, which I didn't this time.


Short version: Italian sausage, bell peppers and shallots, potato cubes, green salad, baked apples

Long version: Everything was thrown in the oven to roast at the same time. Well, except the salad. That'd be gross.

We had fancy-pants shallots this time instead of our standard plebian yellow onions because the paper bag in the laundry room that I thought contained heads of garlic instead had all the shallots A. grew in the garden last summer. Based on the tears they caused when I was peeling them even after they'd been in storage for months, they were some potent alliums. Sniff.

I used lard for the fat on the potato cubes this time. This makes me feel very thrifty and virtuous, because it was lard I rendered from the enormous hunk of pork shoulder A. bought some time ago and that I trimmed of quite a lot of fat*. Rendering the fat makes me feel less like I'm just throwing money in the garbage, and it's way better than that nasty hydrogenated Mexican lard sold in the blue boxes at the grocery store. Not as good as lard rendered from one of the family pigs, but still pretty good. It made some damn fine roasted potatoes, anyway.

Have I mentioned that I find winter salad to be a sad and pale imitation of a real salad? Yes, yes I have. I can't wait for garden arugula to redeem this anemic grocery store lettuce. This time I made a vinaigrette dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, whole grain mustard, salt and pepper shaken in a Mason jar) instead of ranch. Those are the only two dressings I ever make, because I am boring and lazy. And because I like them.


Short version: Steak trio, Texas toast, peas

Long version: The last three steaks left from the small cow were a normal-sized sirloin, a small ribeye, and a minuscule eye of round. I cooked them all on my grill pan.

Texas toast is just grilled garlic bread made from very thickly sliced loaf bread. A batch of bread had come out of the oven only a couple of hours before dinner, so I was going to just give the kids bread and butter. But the steaks reminded me of when I went to Sizzler as a kid (remember Sizzler? Yes? You must be a child of the 80s, too) and the greasy toast that accompanied the steaks there. So I filled the remaining space on the grill pan with a couple of pieces of bread spread with garlic butter. I helped myself to a bite of one before plating them for the boys, and I'm pretty sure this version is better than the Sizzler version. The steak certainly was.

After my adventure in the snow, I didn't feel up to making anything more challenging for a vegetable than frozen peas. Also, I started to feel the household cold coming on. I accept frozen peas as my vegetable savior on such days and refuse to feel bad about it.


Short version: Chili, rice, carrot sticks and bell pepper strips

Long version: This time the chili was beef stew meat, though it's just as likely to be venison or lamb in our house. I used two pounds of beef, two chopped onions, a few cloves of crushed garlic, one big can of whole tomatoes crushed with my spoon, half a can of water, a little vinegar, and lots of chili powder and cumin.

A word about browning. Well, many words. People get very intense about the browning of meat and getting every piece seared all over for the fond and the brown bits and the flavor, etc., etc. If I were to brown two pounds of beef stew meat in that manner, I would have to do it in about five batches, which would mean it would take me about an hour.

You know what was happening while I was browning beef? Poppy was on a blanket on the floor, being "entertained" by Jack, so I was dividing my attention between browning the beef and going over to check on her and reminding Jack not to poke her in the face with a pencil or run laps around her until he got dizzy and fell on her.

This is why I only spent ten minutes browning meat. And you know what? It doesn't matter a damn bit. I read in one of the Cook's Illustrated magazines once that you really only need to fully brown about half the meat in a recipe for full flavor. Sounds good to me.

I served the chili over rice for the kids, with cheese, sour cream, finely diced shallot, and black beans as add-ins in whatever combination everyone wanted.

The carrot sticks and bell pepper strips were crudites. Which is the fancy way of saying that I put a plate of them out in the living room before dinner and the kids ate a whole bell pepper and three carrots this way, because they were hungry and that's all there was.

I'm smarter than I look.

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

* Should you wish to render fat trimmed from a roast--either pork or beef--just cut it into small pieces and put in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water. The water keeps it from sticking to the pan and scorching before it starts rendering. Keep it at a very low heat for awhile, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until almost all the fat has rendered out. Maybe 45 minutes for a small quantity. Strain it through a fine mesh strainer and keep it in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

They Never Listen

I took the boys to the dirt road yesterday for some mandatory outside time*. They had so much fun climbing the giant snow banks, sliding on the ice, and throwing chunks of snow at the stop sign that they begged to go again.

So I took them after school today.

This time Cubby made up a game called "Survive in the Wilderness," which involved running around on top of the snow banks, pulling down wild grapevines, and plotting how to build a treehouse like the one in The Swiss Family Robinson.

I was fine with the snow bank climbing, but I told them not to go into the snow in the woods on the other side of the banks. It's too deep, I said. You'll sink in and get stuck, I said. And then I'll sink in when I have to go over the bank to get you out, I said.

I bet you can guess where this is going.

Sure enough, Cubby went over the bank and sank down in the snow, getting his foot jammed under a tree branch so he couldn't lift it out. He yelled for Charlie to bring him a stick, which Charlie obligingly did and promptly got stuck himself.

So then I had to wallow my way through snow up to my waist, shore myself up on a bush so I didn't sink in all the way, dig their feet out, haul them up, and boost them up the bank and back onto the road. And then I had to wallow back, getting stuck myself and having to dig myself out.

When I got back on the road, I announced the walk was over and it was time to go home.

Some day they'll learn I do know what I'm talking about and they should listen to me, right?

Yeah, sure. Fat chance.

* The rule I have lately been enforcing is they have to go outside every day for the same length of time as the cartoon they watch (currently Tailspin) right before bed if they want to watch it. That way, I know they'll get at least 23 minutes outside--which means I get 23 minutes when they are not inside with me--and it often turns into much longer. Clever, yes?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Some Pig

I spent my afternoon sitting in a chair with a snotty, snoring baby on my lap, because that is where she finally fell asleep and I was afraid she would wake up if I got up. I sat there for three and a half hours, getting up only once for about two minutes to let the dog in, take the meat out of the oven, and pee.

I could do this--and Poppy could sleep peacefully in my lap in the living room--because A. took the boys to the circus. It's a small traveling circus that does a performance every year in the school gymnasium. It's apparently a pretty good circus. Last year, Cubby and Charlie went with A. and came home with a picture of the two of them with a python draped around their shoulders.

Better them than me.

This year the python wasn't in attendance, but Roscoe the pig was. In a fun coincidence, today was Roscoe's birthday. He turned five.

He's big for his age.

Jack loved the pig and ran right up to it. Charlie was not such a fan. A. mentioned that Roscoe seems to relish his life as a circus performer, perhaps because of all the spilled popcorn he gets to eat.

I would have liked to have seen the circus, but I probably would have had a similar reaction to Charlie's when faced with a large pig on a pedestal, so I suppose it's for the best that I stayed home.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Food: Dwindling Provisions

I started out the week with limited fresh produce, and it didn't get any better from there. That is why we ate carrots in some form almost every day this week. And why I currently only have one carrot, two stalks of celery, and frozen peas left. It's even worse than the last time I was running low.


Short version: Grilled cheese sandwiches, vegetable soup, ice cream

Long version: I trust you are all familiar with grilled cheese sandwiches.

The vegetable soup was a boring-but-tasty mix of onion, already-roasted garlic, carrots, celery, tomatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, and peas, plus beef broth from the freezer.

After dinner the boys all had haircuts--buzzcuts, that is--with the promise of ice cream after they were all bathed and de-haired. The best part of haircuts for them is they get to have dessert afterwards while wearing their pajamas.

I encourage cultivating low standards in children. Makes it easy to generate excitement.


Short version: Sirloin steak, pasta with tomato sauce, boring broccoli

Long version: I know! Sirloin steak instead of ribeye! Such variety! The sirloin was from the half cow we got when Poppy was born, and that is almost gone. (It was a really small cow.) I ate my steak in a salad with random leftover cooked vegetables.

The tomato sauce for the pasta was left over from last week. Instead of grating Parmesan for it--why is grating Parmesan cheese such a daunting task?--I stirred in a little heavy cream.

The broccoli was just steamed. Butter, salt, whatever. Boring.


Short version: Stir fry and rice

Long version: Not being a fan of leftover meat, I usually try to disguise it with some sort of strong sauce. In this case, a peanut stir fry sauce. My standard stir fry sauce is soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, some sort of sugar (this time I used a little of an almost-used-up jar of peach preserves), and powdered ginger, plus corn starch for thickening. I'm out of cornstarch, though, so I used the peanut butter to make it thick. And delicious, because peanut butter makes anything delicious.

The only vegetables I had were onions, carrots, and broccoli, but I cut the carrots into matchsticks instead of rounds, so, you know, points for fanciness. Add the leftover chopped sirloin steak and some basmati rice for the kids, and that's dinner.


Short version: Pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, potato soup, stewed rhubarb

Long version: I had one piece left of an enormous picnic roast A. bought a few weeks ago (are you seeing a theme of A. and giant pieces meat?) and cut into three pieces. I chunked up an onion to put on the bottom of my enameled Dutch oven, put the still solidly frozen pork on top of that, poured on a little juice from a half-used can of tomatoes, added salt and pepper, and put it in a 300-degree oven for a few hours.

Haute cuisine, here we come.

While I was at it, I dumped a bag of frozen chopped rhubarb from last spring into a Pyrex dish, added brown sugar and maple syrup to it, and put that in the oven to stew. The thing with rhubarb is, you always need more sweetening than you think you do. If you're asking yourself if there's enough sugar, there isn't. If you think you put too much sugar in it, add more. I love rhubarb, but it takes a LOT of sugar. This time we ate it with heavy cream, but vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt is also good.

Making coleslaw makes a damn mess, because of the grating of the cabbage and carrots, but I absolutely must have coleslaw with pulled pork if it's at all possible. I only had a quarter of a medium-sized cabbage left, so it was a small batch. To that, I added two grated carrots, a small amount of very finely diced onion, and the life-changing coleslaw dressing that I will share with you: One cup buttermilk or plain whole yogurt, 1.5 tablespoons each of mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar, about a quarter teaspoon of celery seed, and enough salt and pepper. Be sure to use enough salt. That's a half recipe for the small batch I made, which was about four cups of grated vegetables.

I've been making this coleslaw for years from a recipe in the book Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman. It is, bar none, the best coleslaw ever. Every person I've ever made it for has asked for the recipe. This was the first time I used yogurt instead of buttermilk, because I can't seem to find buttermilk in stores anymore but I always have yogurt. It wasn't quite as good, but still tasty. You just have to make sure you get the right balance of sugar, vinegar, and salt. That's what makes it so good. I can, and will, just drink the buttermilk dressing straight. Yum.

So at dinnertime all I had to do was shred the meat and add barbecue sauce. I've made my own barbecue sauce before, but I like this local-ish Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce (with the unfortunate name of Sensuous Slathering Sauce) so much, that I don't bother making it anymore.

I made the potato soup because Cubby came home complaining of a sore throat, and he always wants soup when he's sick. I had limited ingredients on hand to make soup, so I ended up boiling some diced potatoes in the liquid from cooking the pork, then adding some roasted garlic I had on hand, mashing up the potatoes, and adding sour cream. It was tasty, if unexciting. Cubby took a bite, made a sulky face, and said, "Did you even put anything in this? I can't taste anything." Pardon me? He ate it anyway, because he knows what's good for him. And what's good for him is not ticking off the cook. He liked it better the next day for lunch, when I added curry powder.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: Pulled pork, coleslaw, rice, broccoli . . . you know. Leftovers.

And now, a break for a completely unrelated photo of Charlie and Jack being ninjas:

My brother actually made and sent a video tutorial on how to turn your t-shirt into a ninja mask. This is the result. Judo CHOP!


Short version: Ribeye steaks, mashed potatoes, frozen peas, sauerkraut

Long version: Yes, ribeye steaks again. I told you it was a huge piece of cow.

I put an already-roasted clove of garlic into the mashed potatoes, and man, they were good.

Frozen peas and sauerkraut because that was pretty much my only option. No paradox of choice here!


Short version: It's up to the weather

Long version: If I don't make it to the grocery store today, I have three eggs, one can of tuna, potatoes, and cheese with which to make a meatless Lenten meal. Plus frozen peas for a vegetable. If I DO make it to the store today, then the world is my oyster. Or rather, my stir-fry. We shall see.

Okay! How about you this week, my lovelies? What'd you eat?

Edited to add: If you're looking for something to make for St. Patrick's Day (besides corned beef, which we will not be having because I didn't corn a brisket and no longer bother with store-bought, even when I can get to the store), you could try this American Irish Soda Bread from King Arthur Flour. Apparently, traditional Irish soda bread is only flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. The American version with butter and sugar is more appealing to me, and anyway the secular celebration of St. Patrick's Day is an American invention. I've made it twice this week--once for us and once for Cubby's St. Patrick's Day party at school. I used the milk+yogurt substitution for buttermilk, and I didn't bother with all that nonsense with making a moat to drizzle milk and sprinkle with sugar. Just sprinkle the sugar right on top. The dough is wet enough. That moat business looks to me like a Cook's Illustrated instruction. And I don't mean that as a compliment.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Enter Wind, Stage North

The snow actually coming down from the sky has slowed, but not stopped. Now the wind is howling, which means drifting, and a lot of it.

The front steps are under there somewhere.

School was delayed for two hours this morning, though I'm not sure that's enough time to dig out from this. Especially because the wind isn't supposed to stop for days.

Thankfully, everyone slept in this morning. Well, everyone except Poppy. Let's not be silly. She was awake at 5 a.m. 

We had lots of bonding time before the next child emerged at 7 a.m. That was Charlie, who informed me he had caught Cubby's cold.

He is thoughtfully keeping his distance from the baby, but it's only a matter of time before I'm suctioning her nose out again.

His insane behavior this morning, however, tells me he's not at death's door, so both he and Cubby are at school. A. very nicely shoveled a path through the drifts so they could get to the road to catch the bus. 

So now it's just me and the tiny crew. And the drifting snow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Slogging Along

Hey, look! It's March 14th! Must be time for an enormous, depressing snowstorm!*


Although we don't really expect spring on the Canadian border in March, that's still an unpleasant sight to wake up to. Kind of over it.

Mia thinks so, too. To my knowledge, she has yet to leave the porch to take advantage of the latrine area A. cleared for her.

I can't blame her. I wouldn't want to squat in a foot of snow to pee, either.

It's still snowing now, and is supposed to continue all day. Cubby and Charlie of course don't have school, so Cubby decided to make everyone eggs for a second breakfast. They went through ten eggs between the three boys.

All that snow makes for a powerful appetite.

Meanwhile, Eczema Baby continues to demand satisfaction for her own powerful appetite.

She also continues to grow her cheeks at a rapid pace.

And that's the news from the frozen snow globe that is our house. Over and out.

* Although, thankfully, not as big as last year's apocalyptic March storm that also, interestingly, started on March 14th.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Practically Health Food

Currently in my refrigerator is a six-pack of Chillin' Cherry Squeezers. I guess you would call them juice? I think they're a juice product in the same way Velveeta is a cheese product.

The reason they're in there is because A. stopped to help an old lady shovel her driveway last week after a pretty good snowstorm, and she decided to thank him by bringing by Skittles, M&Ms, and the Squeezers for the children.

Apparently, neighborly snow removal=sugary thank-you gift.


The drink is, of course, disgusting. Jack got to try some with his lunch and it smells exactly like cough syrup. I didn't taste it personally. The smell was enough for me. Cubby, who has an active and vocal loathing of anything flavored with artificial cherry, is going to be very disappointed.

Anyway again.

The hilarious thing about this beverage, though, is the two prominently displayed announcements on the packaging that proclaim "certified gluten free" and "no high fructose corn syrup*."

Well! Practically a health food!

Despite these obviously superior health benefits, however, I think we'll stick with milk.

* It has sucralose in it instead. Plus a hell of a lot of food dye.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday Food: Beef for Days

One of the inevitable results of buying meat a whole (pig) or half (cow) at a time, is that you end up with a lot of one kind of meat in your freezer, and not much variety. At least, we do. Someday when the children are bigger and we're eating even more than we are now (eek), I'll probably have two freezers and therefore enough space to buy whole pigs and cows at a time, and then we'll have both pork and beef. At the moment, however, it's almost all beef, with some supplemental grocery store pork.

And now, let us jump right into the feeding trough. So to speak.


Short version: Ribeye steaks, onion, rice, broccoli with cheese

Long version: More of the ribeye steaks that I hacked off the ridiculous log of cow flesh A. brought home last week. Except this time I cooked them on my cast iron griddle in the house, which has a grill on the other side. Still good, if not quite as deliciously smokey. I had a little room left on the griddle, which I filled with thick slices of onion. In my experience, you will never be sorry if you cook some onion.

The rice was left over from the previous week.

The broccoli was steamed, and then I drained it and threw some butter and cheddar cheese pieces in the pot and covered it to let the cheese melt. I had plans to make an actual cheese sauce, which is much better, but then the Subaru broke down entirely a couple of miles from the house (luckily, only A. was in it at the time) and I was dealing with roadside assistance and tow trucks, so no cheese sauce. No baked apples for the same reason. Boo on many levels.


Short version: Carnitas, black beans, carrots

Long version: The boys ate their meat in corn tortillas with cheese, beans, lettuce, and sour cream. A. and I ate our meat with all those things plus salsa, as a salad. If you have never had the joy of consuming a carnitas salad, I urge you to do so at the first opportunity. Delicious.

The carrots were just random chunks I threw on top of the meat to steam, so we would have a vegetable besides lettuce. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask A. to get the big bag of carrots from Quebec (our local store carries several kinds of produce from there, since it's just over the border) when he went to the grocery store for me, so he got the standard Green Giant carrots from California and they taste like bleach. Even when they're cooked. Gross.

The beans are Goya brand in cans (the only kind I'll buy), drained and heated up in the microwave with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and vinegar. Yes, I know I should cook my own beans instead of buying them in cans. I don't.

This guy helped me finish up the leftover meat the next day for lunch. I had another salad, he had another taco, and both of us were very happy.


Short version: Un-American goulash with carrots, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, frozen peas

Long version: American goulash is a pasta dish with ground beef. My goulash is beef cubes with a ton of onions and paprika, plus tomatoes. I add carrot chunks about halfway through the cooking, too, and sour cream at the end. I used to always add the sauerkraut to the goulash, but certain of my offspring are displeased with that addition, so now I serve it separately. This was the last jar of sauerkraut from last year. Sad.

I always add some sour cream or buttermilk to my mashed potatoes, for a little bit of tang. Not that it matters to me, since I rarely eat them anymore. Also sad.

And we eat a lot of frozen peas. So convenient, so easy to stock up on and have on hand, and so palatable to every member of the family.


Short version: Pork chops, fried cabbage/carrots/onion, leftover rice and mashed potatoes, microwave baked apples

Long version: Charlie's favorite thing is "meat with lots of pafreaka." That would be "paprika," but he says it that way because, "I freak out when we have it." Right. So pork chops in our house always have lots of paprika on them. A. cooked them this time, so I'm not sure what else he put on them. I always also put on lots of garlic powder and salt and pepper. For years, I didn't season pork chops enough and didn't really like them. I now know they take a lot of seasoning.

The cabbage mixture was thinly sliced cabbage and onions and shredded carrots cooked slowly in a lot of butter, until a little bit caramelized. My mom made this when she was here after Poppy was born, and now I make it frequently, too. Proof you're never too old to learn from your mother. Too bad it still tasted faintly of bleach because of the carrots.

I only had a little left of both the rice and the potatoes, so the boys got to have small portions of each. Cubby was delighted to have both rice and potatoes. That boy sure does love his starches. Definitely his mother's child.

I make baked apples in the microwave if the oven isn't on already for something else. I don't think they're quite as good, but certainly still enjoyable with cream. What isn't, right?


Short version: Bacon cheeseburgers, random eggs, vegetable soup, cheddar cheese, bread and butter

Long version: The last package of ground beef was pretty small and only made five small hamburgers. A. probably could have eaten them all himself, but as we all needed to eat, I also made bacon and a couple of eggs for him, so he could make his alarming Towers of Power.

The vegetable soup was the standard mix of vegetables--onion, garlic, celery, carrots (damn Chlorox carrots again--gotta use 'em up), mushrooms, cabbage and green peas--but instead of broth and tomatoes, I used the remaining liquid from the goulash, out of which almost all the meat and carrots had already been eaten. It was a good combination, actually. I ate soup plus cheese instead of hamburgers, as did Cubby. Everyone else had a small amount of soup and the hamburger patties. And everyone got one piece of bacon.

Bread and butter is just what it sounds like: A cop-out when I need a starch for the children (A. and I typically don't eat this part of the meal), but don't want to dirty another pot or make anything else. At least it's homemade bread, so I did put in the effort at some point in the past. But still . . . bread and butter. Yup.


Short version: Ribeye steaks, pasta with tomato sauce, roasted butternut squash/onions/garlic, salad, baked apples

Long version: Yes, ribeye steaks again. A. told me that if I were somehow not around and he was in charge of cooking, he would just keep one of those whole ribeyes in the refrigerator to cut off steaks to eat, fry them in a cast iron skillet, and eat them with his hands. Then there would be no dishes except the skillet, which can be re-used without washing. He was completely serious.

Luckily for the children, I am not such a savage, so they got to have pasta with their steak. I even generously grated Parmesan cheese for it, which I don't always bother with. The tomato sauce used up the last half of a jar of tomatoes I canned last summer. I didn't take the skins off before I canned them, but I found that I can pop the skins off pretty easily when I'm cooking them. Still, I prefer my food to be as prepped as possible before I start cooking with it, so in the future when I'm not pregnant and don't have a toddler underfoot, I'll probably peel them before canning.

Anyway, I threw the tomatoes in a dish with some olive oil, a bay leaf, and basil and shoved it in the oven, which was on to roast the butternut squash. When the tomatoes had reduced, I mashed them with a potato masher and added some balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic (more on that later).

I also put an onion with the squash (remember, if you have room in a pan, always fill it with onion), plus four heads of garlic. A. had requested I roast some next time I was roasting something else. The garlic isn't going to last much longer, so I did a bunch. Also the apples, because the oven was on and I have quite a few left in the big box of utility apples A. brought home. They won't last much longer, either.

The salad was romaine hearts (the only leaf lettuce available at the store in non-bag form and man, I am really missing homegrown lettuce now) with homemade ranch dressing, which means it was a salad really only in the academic sense. I added the roasted vegetables and some of the steak to mine. A. slathered his first steak with the roasted garlic and his second with the tomato sauce. So obviously he doesn't mind when I bother with more than hunks of meat, even if he wouldn't.


Short version: The Church says no ribeye for you.

Long version: I am not a menu planner, so my dinner plan tends to evolve over the course of the day (or devolve, depending on how challenging the day is). I have more of the tomato sauce, so maybe I'll make all the children's dreams come true and give them pasta two nights in a row. Crazy indulgence. Then again, I have to bake bread this afternoon, so I could also give them fresh bread.  I could make cheesy omelets, or I may go even lazier and just scramble a whole lot of eggs (sixteen at a time for the five of us, which is why we go through five dozen in a week). I might steam some broccoli, or maybe again be lazy and throw some more frozen peas in the microwave. One way or another, though, I'll cook and we'll eat. It's as certain as the sun rising and setting.

Your turn! What'd you eat this week?