Friday, August 24, 2018

Friday Food: New Mexico Slowly Takes Over

My food is starting to reflect our new food environment, but there are some eastern things I just won't give up. Like maple syrup, of which I recently got a four-gallon delivery. Hooray for the miracles of modern shipping.


Short version: Chicken, baked potatoes, green salad

Long version: One of the random things A. bought me at the grocery store when he went to drop off our U-Haul trailer--along with the five dozen eggs and the asadero cheese--was masa. Masa is, essentially, flour made from corn instead of wheat. It's used mostly to make tortillas, which I feel no need to make as there are dozens of kinds of tortillas available in stores here. A. thought I might use it to make cornbread. So far, I used it to make corn pancakes--which were good--and to coat "oven-fried" chicken.

I must, however, call shenanigans on the very concept of "oven-fried" anything. Baking chicken in a hot oven on a butter-coated baking pan is never going to be anything like frying. It will not produce the same result. But it can still be good. This was.

In the morning I put the chicken--thighs and drumsticks--to marinate in a mixture of yogurt, milk, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. When it was time to cook them, I shook the pieces in a bag with the corn flour, paprika, salt, pepper, and more garlic powder, then baked them at 425 degrees on a foil-covered pan with a layer of melted butter on it. Flipped them once.

It was not as crispy as real fried chicken, but it was a hell of a lot easier and less messy, and very tasty.

Baked potatoes pre-cooked for five minutes in the microwave.

Green salad with a diced tomato, shaved carrot (I always do shavings of carrot with a vegetable peeler, because I dislike hard chunks of carrot in a salad), and the last of the homemade ranch dressing I made a few days before. Easy dinner, assuming I have it together enough to do the marinating ahead of time, and very good.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, rice, steamed carrots

Long version: I cooked the rice in the pot roast liquid from the week before. And I guess that's all I have to say.


Short version: Pork shoulder, corn muffins, frozen peas

Long version: I put the pork shoulder in the oven at 300 degrees at 9 a.m. and took it out at about 3 p.m. I just shredded some of it, mixed it with mustard and maple syrup, and put it back in the oven to get crispy while the corn muffins were baking. Unfortunately, it mostly got dry, not crispy, but everyone still liked it except Charlie, who announced that it was "worse than mushrooms." Damning, indeed. Apparently, he dislikes mustard in all forms. Good to know.

The corn muffins I made from this recipe. In my continuing challenge to use the big bag of corn flour A. bought, I Googled "corn muffins," and this was the first recipe that came up. I considered it serendipity, as I had just been reading this book, and one of the profiled women was Edna Lewis. Plus, the recipe doesn't call for any wheat flour.

Plusplus, the instructions say to "mix well," instead of "mix until just combined." I get very anxious when I'm supposed to "mix until just combined." What if I overmix? What if there aren't enough lumps? What if my end result is TOUGH? Gasp.

I like mixing well. It's easier and less stressful.


I used yogurt+milk instead of buttermilk, as I always do these days, and I had to add extra milk because the batter was way too dry. High altitude adjustments. I didn't bother with making my own baking powder, because . . . no.

The recipe made more like 15 muffins rather than the stated 12, but no one complained.

They were a big hit with everyone. Well, except Charlie. He ate two that night, but then didn't eat one the next morning for breakfast, claiming he didn't like them. He's a real jewel.

Oh well. Cubby was happy to finish it.


Short version: Tuna patties, roasted potatoes, roasted zucchini/onion/bell pepper, cucumber slices

Long version: Tuna patties=canned tuna, mayonnaise, mustard, bread crumbs, eggs, dill. I used three big cans of tuna to make nine pretty big patties, and they were all eaten.

I used pork fat saved from the shoulder roast from the day before to roast the potatoes. Thrifty and delicious.

The zucchini and cucumber were the last of the last gifted vegetables I got from Rafael. Who knows what he may have next time? More zucchini, I bet. But here in the Land of Enchantment and Infrequent Grocery Shopping, I am happy to accept any fresh vegetables that come my way.

Despite A.'s touching efforts, I don't think we can count on our vegetable garden to get us through the winter.


Short version: Pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, baked beans

Long version: This meal featured two New York state products that I brought with me--Dinosaur BBQ's Sensuous Slathering Sauce, and Grandma Brown's baked beans. I'm gonna have to start making my own barbecue sauce and baked beans now, aren't I? Sigh.


Short version: Beef tacos, pinto beans

Long version: And this meal featured two 100% local products--beef and pinto beans.

The story of the beef is a nice one. At the Cowboy Camp Meeting we went to, I was talking with the preschool teacher and her mother--who also works at the school--about where I might be able to buy meat. Not grocery stores where I could buy meat, obviously, but from whom I might be able to buy boxes of beef or whole animals to be slaughtered.

My party conversation is still sparkling, yes.


It turns out that most people around here that work on ranches get meat as part of their compensation. So despite being surrounded by beef cattle, it's not that easy to buy the meat. But the preschool teacher's mother is married to a ranch manager, and they stopped by our house completely randomly on Tuesday night to give us some beef.

They wouldn't let me pay for it, though they did accept a loaf of bread. A loaf of bread for about eight pounds of local beef? Best bargain I've made in a while.

There were three packages of meat. One is a huge roast. The other two were labeled "sirloin tip steaks," and turned out to be thin-cut and tenderized steaks. So I seasoned one package of steaks (salt, pepper, cumin, lime juice) and quickly seared them on my griddle, then sliced them thinly and served the meat in corn tortillas with lettuce, tomato, salsa, and sour cream.

The pinto beans I got from the big bin at the tiny grocery store in the next village over (20 miles away). Close to here used to be a big pinto bean growing area, so they are definitely part of the local food history. I don't think anyone grows them here anymore, but they're still readily available in bulk.

I cooked these with onion, garlic, diced tomato, chili powder, salt, cumin, and the highly gelatinous juices left over from Sunday's pork roast. They were really good beans.

This girl started crawling this day, no doubt fueled by the beans, which she loved. Better than jet fuel.


Short version: Sausage, eggs, tortillas and cheese, tomato and cucumber salad

Long version: A. bought both chorizo sausage and something labeled "sage sausage" at the store when he went this week. I knew the chorizo would be too spicy for the kids--and me--so I made two different pans: one had the fried chorizo with scrambled eggs for A., and the other had patties made from the other sausage and fried eggs for me and the kids.

But of course, this is New Mexico. Even the sage sausage was spicy. Not as spicy as the chorizo, however, and everyone but Charlie ate it with apparent enjoyment.

Jack also ate some of the chorizo, because that was what Daddy was eating. Even if it burned a hole in his mouth, he would eat what Daddy was eating.

I just realized that I made eggs last Thursday, too. Thursday is like our Friday, thanks to the wonderful four-day school week, so I guess scrambled eggs are my version of easy pizza Fridays.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Just Call Me Tenderfoot

After fifteen years of living in upstate New York, I'd forgotten how many things in the west are poisonous. I didn't have to worry about the kids getting bitten by a snake there, because there weren't any poisonous ones where we lived. Ditto spiders.

But now it's a whole new ballgame.

Jack, Poppy, and I went to the village playground this afternoon and met another mom and her two young children there. The mom grew up here, and she and her husband now run their family ranch.

Her little girl--who is going to be in the preschool class with Jack--wanted to go to the preschool playground at the school, which is not currently being used as preschool doesn't start until after Labor Day. So we went over there.

Jack went under the play structure to play with a little spinning thing under there, and came back out announcing there were spider webs under there. I didn't think much of it, but the other mom went under there and asked Jack to show her the spider webs. And then she backed out, saying that was a black widow spider's web with a black widow in it.

Oh. Sure glad someone around here is cognizant of the dangers of this environment.

Black widows are the most venomous spider on the continent. They only bite when disturbed, but I should imagine a bunch of preschoolers would provide sufficient disturbance. Their venom doesn't kill a healthy adult, but it can kill small children.

So. You know. Not the best resident of a preschool playground.

She went into the school to tell the maintenance guy, who appeared with a can of bug spray and presumably took care of it.

Jack took great delight in telling everyone he found the most poisonous spider in the world today. And I'm glad he learned a good lesson without any injury.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Western Adventuring

One of the best things about our new place is that the children only go to school four days a week. Their last school tried to sell Fridays at school as Fun Friday, but the kids weren't buying it.

These are the real Fun Fridays. No school, only adventures with Daddy, who is a guy who knows how to have a good time.

This past Friday, we went to a, ahem, "lake" that used to be a state park that got turned over to the county, who apparently sold it. We didn't know that at the time, though.

Poppy had her inaugural ride in The Pack. A big moment.

This gate was locked. We thought it was public, so we went through it.

And walked down the long road towards . . .

The lake. Can you see it? No? That's because it was essentially a shallow depression with maybe a foot of water. The children were unimpressed.

About this point, we realized that way at the end of the road was what looked like a ranch house, and this was probably private property. So we didn't go any further.

Next we went to a nearby canyon.

Hello there, western scenery.

The road leading into it was . . . dicey.

This picture does not do it justice.

Comments from the children regarding the road:

Cubby: I'm going to call this Death Pond Road.

Jack: This road is beautiful! But scary.

Charlie, when we got to the bottom: My prayers worked!

Poppy had nothing to say. Perhaps she was stunned into silence by all the jouncing in her carseat.

We had a brief picnic.

During which A. counseled the children not to wander off, because there were mountain lions around that would be happy to eat a child. Have fun, kids!

There was an even briefer attempt at fishing for catfish.

During which they found a crawfish.

And went wading.

I sat on a blanket with Poppy, keeping her from eating rocks and shading myself and her with A.'s shirt.

I have not yet adjusted to the western sun. I may never adjust, actually.

A. congratulated himself on getting the Chevy Express van, which apparently has superior traction. Important, considering one tire suddenly sank at one point in a foot of sandy mud when we were turning around, and then A. had to gun it up one particularly steep and rocky section of the road on the way out.

Brave little (big) van.

We made it out without incident, though, and the children all claimed to have enjoyed their adventure.

A Fun Friday, indeed.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Making Me Blush

The kids and I went to the playground in the next village over while A. was busy doing something else. Just after we arrived, a truck pulled up with a teenage girl and her mother, who started setting up for a party. They busily moved tables about, blew up balloons, and pulled out a HUGE pinata in the shape of a pink cowboy boot.

The children were enjoying watching the party preparations. I assumed the two were setting up for the girl's birthday party.

Then they hung up a big box on which was written quite clearly, "We're here for the sex."

Oh, really? Because I'm not, and my children certainly aren't.

I quickly re-directed the children to the other part of the playground, where my two literate kids wouldn't be able to read the sign. I could not imagine why such a thing was on display at what I thought was a teenager's birthday party.

When A. arrived, he suggested that probably they were setting up a bachelorette party, which I guess makes a little more sense.

But still. I could have done without that.