Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lucky Friday the Thirteenth

Charlie was born on a Friday that happened to fall on the thirteenth of July, which means, popular superstition to the contrary, I will always consider it a lucky day for me.

This year, his birthday was also on a Friday. It was another lucky day, kicking off with french toast requested by and prepared (with some help) by the birthday boy.

Photographic evidence of Charlie's luck comes in the form of the number of fish caught by A. and the boys on an early morning fishing trip to the village dock.

That's a hell of a lot of fish for an hour of fishing: rock bass, blue gill, sunfish, and perch. Some really big ones too.

And here we have the triumphant fisherboys with their catch.

I suggested taking the fish right down to our beach to clean and scale (thereby avoiding fish guts and scales all over the patio right outside the house door), which then turned into cooking the fish on our beach for lunch.

Along with some (literal) grilled cheese I made with pita breads and that the birthday boy refused on the grounds that they weren't "normal" grilled cheese. True, but annoying.

 Poppy even ate some bits of fish.

In this photo, it looks as if it all ended up on her shirt, but I'm pretty sure she swallowed some.

Then we all went to get ice cream.

The boys watched some cartoons when we got home, because they were all tired and needed to be out of the sun for awhile. An hour or so of Transformers perked them right up, though, and they spent some time running around doing . . . stuff. I don't know what, exactly. Building with Lincoln Logs? Picking black caps?

Whatever. They ran around while A. did some mowing.

Charlie helped me make pesto, per his birthday dinner request. His dinner request also included "a fancy dinner" up at the house, instead of the original plan of a beach cookout.

Well! You want a fancy birthday dinner? Blackrock has you covered. (Exhibit A.)

His only specifications for dinner were pasta with pesto, green salad with ranch dressing, and vanilla pudding for dessert instead of cake. Grandma made the pudding, and to the original dinner order I added Italian sausage, peppers and onions, green beans, and sparkling cider in fancy glasses for the boys.

We set the table nicely, including a tablecloth that was just the right size and that the MiL remarked was handmade lace, causing A. to panic and say, "Take it off the table then! It'll get ruined!"

However, since we weren't eating anything particularly staining--i.e., anything with barbecue sauce--we used it anyway and it was fine.

Terrible photo of a lovely meal.

Then we all had pudding, Charlie opened his cards and gifts, he went on a solo canoe ride with A., played some kind of ninja game with his brothers, and had to be dragged to bed to end his fun birthday day.

It was a good day. A fitting celebration for a good kid.

Friday, July 13, 2018


Happy birthday 
to Charlie.

A prince among boys.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Friday Food: Summer Produce Gluttony

We have been gorging on cherries, black caps, watermelon, cucumbers, and green beans lately, and I'm not even a little bit sorry.


Short version: Chicken, potatoes, green beans

Long version: I had about six minutes to get dinner cooking while Charlie and Jack "watched" Poppy for me on the porch, so I separated the frankly enormous chicken leg quarters the MiL had bought ( while trying not to imagine what those Franken-chickens must have looked like when alive) and filled a big Pyrex dish with them. I seasoned them with salt and herbs de provence, because that's what I found first in the spice drawer.

There was a big cast iron skillet still on the stove from when I had cooked a ham steak earlier in the day, so I filled 2/3 of it with chunked-up new potatoes, the remaining 1/3 with fresh green beans (hooray for green bean season!), doused them both with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and slammed it all in the oven at 415 degrees until done.

Everything is easier when I can run the oven without heating the kitchen up to crazy temperatures.

And when the kids can eat chicken with their hands on the porch. Even little missy there got a bone, hence the big smile. That girl does love her greasy bones.


Short version: Bunless hamburgers, rice, sauteed zucchini and onions with red pepper sauce, cucumbers

Long version: The MiL had pulled out a random jar of red bell pepper paste that had eggplant and stuff in it too. It looked like tomato paste, but tasted like peppers and eggplant. So I stirred some of that into the zucchini. The MiL called this "clever." I just love an easy audience.


Short version: Celebratory London broil steaks, roasted new potatoes, green beans

Long version: We were celebrating because A. and Cubby made it back from New Mexico in the afternoon. Hooray!

I made a sauce for the London broil with thinly sliced onions, some old white wine the MiL wanted me to use up in cooking, plus some red wine, and a chunk of butter.

Do you know this trick of thickening sauces with cold butter? If you add a chunk of cold butter to a liquid sauce off heat and stir it around, the butter thickens the sauce without flour. I actually had to put a chunk in the freezer to chill quickly this time, as all of our butter was room temperature, which does not work.

It was a little too hot to be roasting anything in the oven (story of my life lately), but new potatoes are so delicious roasted that I did it anyway. I did not regret it.

The green beans were from the farmers market, and I am SO HAPPY it is fresh green bean season again. Did I say that already? Well, I am.


Short version: Beachy hamburgers, cucumbers and carrot sticks with curry dip, cherries

Long version: This was our Fun Beach Cookout Dinner. The hamburgers were, shall we say, very flame broiled. This extreme well-doneness combined with the fact that I let the kids eat theirs as sandwiches on some gross "split top butter flavored" white bread A. had bought on their road trip made for some pretty unappealing burgers.

Luckily, with kids, you put enough ketchup on it and they don't care.

The cherries were a bag from the grocery store I had bought that very morning. Because we had finished the bag I had bought from the farmers market on Saturday morning. The bag of grocery store cherries only lasted a day, as well.

Apparently, we can really plow through fresh cherries.

Is it possible to get sick of cherries? I'll do some research and get back to you on that.


Short version: Weird pork things, rice, sauteed bell peppers/mushrooms/onions, steamed carrots and broccoli, green salad, watermelon (with seeds, of course)

Long version: The pork was this really strange and unidentifiable cut labeled "Western style ribs" or something. They were long, thick-cut pieces with a thick layer of fat on one side. I was a bit perplexed as to their actual location on the pig, but it doesn't really matter, I guess.

Sometime in the afternoon I shook some vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder over them for the laziest marinade ever. Then at cooking time, I broiled them, flipping them several times, until they were mostly cooked, at which point I drained off the accumulated liquid from the pan, covered the pork in storebought barbecue sauce, and broiled a few minutes more.

It took me some time to learn that grocery store meat cooked in the oven should never be sauced at the start of cooking, because of all the liquid. That liquid is a major reason I dislike meat from the grocery store. Meat is not supposed to be wet.


My tip: Always add sauce after cooking and draining the juice, to avoid losing all the sauce in a liquid mess in the bottom of the pan. Yuck.

I have discovered that my enjoyment of a meal is in direct proportion to how many different kinds of vegetables I have on my plate. This time, as I made all of mine into a salad, I had seven: bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, and cucumbers. So it was a very enjoyable meal for me, which made a lot of cooking dishes that the MiL then washed. Sorry, MiL.

I also ate a rather impressive quantity of watermelon after dinner. I guess it's not just fresh cherries that are so easy to consume in mass quantities.


Short version: Happy ham steaks, vegetable melange with eggs, raw cucumbers and green beans

Long version: At about 2 p.m., I sauteed a bunch of vegetables (onion, garlic, new potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes) together in olive oil until the potatoes were soft, and dumped it all in a Pyrex dish to be covered with eggs and baked at dinnertime.

Good thing I did that early prep, because my watch stopped at 3:04 p.m. So when A. inquired about dinner, I airily waved him off with, "Oh, it's only three!" only to be informed that actually, it was 4:20 p.m.

Oh. Guess I'd better make dinner, then!

I cracked the eggs on top of the vegetables, put a couple of happy ham steaks (happy because they were real ham from the MiL's brother's pigs, which made me happy, if not the pigs) on a pan, and baked all of it at 400 degrees until done. I also put the ham under the broiler for a few minutes at the end, because ham should have some crispy parts on it.

Charlie will only eat green beans raw, so I gave him and Jack some while I was making dinner. Jack also ate the vegetable melange (do you like my fancy name?), but his brothers will have nothing to do with zucchini. Thus, raw cucumbers.

Then the MiL took the boys to a minor league baseball game in the Small City, and A. and I went on a date to get ice cream. Poppy came too, but she didn't get any ice cream. I had a cone of Perry's White Lightning, which made me both happy while I was eating it and sad that I will not be able to get it in New Mexico. Unlimited tortillas will not quite compensate.


Short version: Sloppy joes, pan-fried sweet potatoes, green salad

Long version: My optimistic plan when I took ground beef out of the freezer was to make barbecue meatballs. That did not happen. Instead, I browned the ground beef with onions and dumped the barbecue sauce right in there. Just like the meatballs! Except . . . sloppy joes.

The MiL had some random pita bread in the freezer that I thought would be good to help the boys contain their sloppy joe meat. That did not work out the way I had hoped. Still meat everywhere. Oh well. Mia always likes sloppy joe meals.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Philosophy in the Kitchen

I was unreasonably excited to find that the grocery store in the Small City had seeded watermelon in stock last week. My strong opinions on seedless watermelons have been well documented here, but it is a sad reality that seedless watermelons are almost ubiquitous in grocery stores.

So I was very happy to find the seeded ones. Maybe they only had them for the Fourth of July, but they had them. I bought one last week. I bought another this week. I have been eating a lot of watermelon, because of course, seeded watermelons are huge.

I can see why most people don't bother with them. Not only do you have to spit seeds, but they are probably too large for an average-sized household to eat in a timely manner. Good thing we're larger than average-sized.

They are also unwieldy to cut up, and they take up a lot of space in the refrigerator. However, they're so delicious that I'm willing to put up with their inconveniences.

The most recent watermelon was a rather large inconvenience, as it rolled off the counter while I was cutting a few pieces off and smashed down onto the kitchen floor, thus cracking in several spots. So I had to cut the whole thing up right away. There was watermelon juice everywhere, and everyone was in the kitchen for lunch so it got tracked all over. The kitchen floor is still a little sticky.

I see some mopping in my future today.


As I was cutting it up, Cubby and I were discussing the fact that seedless watermelons have no taste. "They taste like water, " Cubby observed.

I'm raising that boy up right.

Charlie added to the discussion by complaining, "I wish I could have a real watermelon without seeds."

This provided me with the opportunity to explain that when plant geneticists started monkeying with our food to make it more convenient, they largely made it less flavorful. The watermelon is a perfect example of this.

"And so," I concluded sagely, "You can't have a delicious watermelon without the seeds. You have to choose: convenience or taste."

I could have extrapolated from there and told them that life itself is full of seeds, but that makes it all the sweeter, or something equally profound, but I decided to just eat the watermelon instead.

A good decision. A good watermelon, too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Summer Resolution

This will probably sound ridiculous, but I have made a mental resolution to have more fun this summer.

This has been a very stressful summer so far--moving cross-country with many small children will do that--and I really feel as if I am more not-fun than usual. Kind of grumpy, as a matter of fact, which is good for no one.

And so, I have consciously vowed to myself to have fun.

I understand that it is not New Year's Eve, the traditional time for resolutions. It is also not a traditional resolution, as I believe most people's resolutions are of the un-fun variety, like lose weight or keep the house cleaner.

A thing I know about myself, however, is that I'm really good at doing the not-fun stuff that requires routine and responsibility, and not good at doing the fun stuff that gets me off my routine. I'm, well, kind of uptight.

But I want to have fun! I want my kids to have fun with me!

Yesterday, that meant that I promised the boys that not only would we go swimming, but we would have a cookout down on the beach.

I dislike cookouts because it feels like more work to me to have to more or less transport the kitchen to the beach, and then eat while dealing with the sun and bugs and kids that drop their food in the gravel, and . . .

Well, like I said: I'm kind of uptight.

But this is the Summer of Fun, so I did it. I even wore my swimsuit and went in the water with the boys before dinner, which is so rare for me that they all remarked on it many times and I honestly could not remember the last time I had worn my swimsuit.

I helped Jack--who is not comfortable in the water by himself--float around and practice swimming while the older two swam in circles around us. Then I got out and had a gin cocktail that I had packed along with the food (alcohol isn't a requirement for fun, but it's a nice addition sometimes), organized the eating of the beach cookout food, and removed many rocks from Poppy's mouth*.

We were down there for three hours, which made the boys very happy. And you know what? It was fun.


* That girl wants nothing to do with actual food, but put her in proximity to rocks or leaves, and they will be in her mouth pronto. I suspect if I had the baby chair with the tray and could set her up with little pieces of soft food, she might actually eat on her own. That will have to wait, though, as the chair and tray are currently in New Mexico and we are not.