Saturday, September 1, 2018

Friday Family Fun: Descending Into Another Canyon

This is becoming a regular feature, apparently, because every Friday we have an adventure with A. Lots of exploring to be done in a new place, you know, and A. is not the man to sit around at home.

A week ago we went to a manmade lake at a state park an hour away. There was a perfect sand beach, clear water to swim in, pavilions for picnics . . . it was great. Unfortunately, the only photos are on A.'s flip phone, and for some reason, Blogger won't let me upload them here. So no pictures for you for that one.

But yesterday when we went into another canyon to go fishing? Well! You want pictures? I got SO MANY pictures.

Our destination this time was a little settlement deep in the middle of nowhere in a canyon. And when I say nowhere, I mean nowhere. We drove for thirty miles and saw maybe four ranch homes before we even turned off onto the dirt road into the canyon.

Can you see the tiny house way in the distance? That's where we were going.

There is a church still in this mostly abandoned settlement. The building is listing alarmingly and buttressed on one side, but still set up for services. It was locked, but we peeked in the windows.

The children announced their desire for food, so I got out some of the fruit and their water bottles from the cooler for a church-step snack.

Poppy was confined to her stroller, due to the unsuitably rocky, weedy, and hard ground surrounding the church. It was not crawling terrain. More snake terrain.

There was a ranch adjoining the church property, and a very bored horse wandered over to see what all the excitement was.

Or maybe just to eat some more.

Fortified by cherries, grapes, and water, we all got back in the van and continued down the somewhat washed-out road to the creek at the bottom.

If I were an Instagrammer, I would totally start an account featuring our van and all the crazy places it takes us.

There was some catfish fishing.

In the surprisingly large creek.

A. baited the hook with some salami and cheese from our picnic lunch. There were a few fish on the line, but the boys didn't manage to land them.

It was a much nicer spot than I was expecting, though. Most importantly for Poppy, there was a grassy area in the shade where she could sit and crawl around.

Of course, she crawls right into the sun, but at least there's shade to put her back in to.

I was there too, properly be-hatted this time.

And in the shade. And wearing sunscreen. There's no such thing as too much sun protection here.

We had our picnic lunch in the grass after everyone had had enough of fishing.

And then we continued on the dirt road to an even more remote settlement where there were actually irrigated fields at the bottom of the canyon. We didn't spend much time down there, nor did I take any photos. That sort of tiny, remote place is not the place to be nosy. It was very cool, though.

I also harvested some prickly pear fruits to experiment with, but that will be its own post. Get excited.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Food: The Week of Chicken Delays


Short version: Pork chops, tomato rice, sauteed mushrooms and onions, green salad

Long version: I had a few tomatoes that were not looking too perky, so I diced one up and cooked it with some diced onion to cook the rice. Plus I added the remainder of the pork juice from the pork shoulder. That's some flavorful rice.


Short version: Ground beef with potatoes, sauteed zucchini with tomato and onions, cucumber slices

Long version: I had very virtuously prepped a beef roast for dinner, along with a pot of potato chunks. But then we spontaneously went somewhere right before dinner, and I didn't have time to make the roast when we got home at 5:15.

Plan B: Browned ground beef from the log of it in the refrigerator I hadn't yet frozen, plus diced onion, diced tomato, garlic, lots of paprika, salt, pepper, and thyme.

I was boiling the potatoes while I was cooking the beef, and when the potatoes were done, I dumped them into the beef and let them cook for awhile in the meat juices. We were eating half an hour after walking in the door.

So gourmet. And actually, surprisingly good. Everyone liked it.

The zucchini came from Rafael, who delivered not only zucchini, but a ton of cucumbers. More refrigerator pickles, coming right up!


Short version: Roast beef, roasted potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted zucchini/onion/bell pepper

Long version: The beef roast waited patiently in the refrigerator until it was time to put it in a very hot oven late Sunday afternoon. It was heavily seasoned on the outside with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano. I roasted it at 450 degrees for about twenty minutes, and then at 400 degrees until it got to 140 degrees internally.

My biggest meat cooking challenge is always not over-cooking. I succeeded this time. After resting, it was a perfect medium. Yay me.

I had roasted it in a cast iron skillet, so when the meat was done, I just poured off the seasoned fat onto the roasting potatoes and made a sauce in the skillet with water, Dijon mustard, and heavy cream. It was very, very good, if I do say so myself. And I do.


Short version: Eggs, bacon, chorizo, bread and butter, green salad

Long version: I had a big bag of chicken pieces out thawing for dinner, except they, um, didn't thaw in time. Eggs it is!

There was more chorizo in the package I had opened a few days previously, so I made that with scrambled eggs for A., plus bacon and fried eggs for the kids and me.

Salad with chopped fried eggs and bacon in it is really extremely good. Yum.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, rice, sauteed zucchini/tomato/onion, steamed carrots

Long version: The chicken was actually thawed, but I was pretty over the kitchen after making and canning peach jam in the morning. So instead of the chicken enchilada casserole I had planned on, I made cheeseburgers from the ground beef in the refrigerator that I hadn't yet gotten around to freezing.

They were fine, as was everything else.

Look! Peaches in a colander!


Short version: Chicken enchilada casserole, baked zucchini, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: The chicken could no longer be ignored. As soon as I got home from walking Cubby and Charlie to school, I put the chicken pieces--drumsticks and thighs--in a big pot of water with onion, carrot, celery, and a bay leaf. This way, I could cook the chicken and make stock at the same time. (Stock that did not get successfully canned. NOT THAT I AM BITTER.)

After the chicken was pretty tender, I pulled the meat off and shredded it, adding the mostly stripped bones back to the pot of liquid to simmer some more.

The shredded chicken went into a skillet with sauteed onion, garlic, and some "mild" Hatch chile salsa.

I put "mild" in quotes, because it is not mild, not at all. I have already learned never to trust New Mexican salsa labels. I've tried about four local mild salsas by now, and they are never mild by my definition of mild.

Thus, I also added sour cream and a bunch of shredded cheese--cheddar and asadero--to mitigate the definitely-not-mild burn of the salsa.

Jack helped me layer the chicken with more shredded cheese and tortillas in the casserole dish. He very much enjoyed this.

The excess of dairy didn't actually succeed in making the casserole particularly mild. The spiciness was noted by the children, but not in an accusatory way, and everyone ate it all. They might make good New Mexicans yet.

Poppy had yogurt for dinner, because I think she would not have appreciated the authentic New Mexican spice level of the chicken.

The zucchini was just sliced zucchini salted and drained to get rid of some liquid, then seasoned with olive oil, garlic powder, and salt, and baked. Never let a zucchini-cooking opportunity pass. Especially if Rafael lives nearby.


Short version: Pork, mashed potatoes, cucumber salad

Long version: Finally, the last of the lean pork loin chops. I chunked them up, browned them, cooked onion and mushrooms in the pan, added dry vermouth (what I use when I don't have wine, which is almost always), then some of the large quantity of stupid chicken stock that didn't seal (STILL NOT BITTER, THOUGH), a little heavy cream, and some cornstarch to thicken the sauce.

While I was in the kitchen doing that, the kids were in the living room doing this:

Poppy was in jail for robbing the doughnut store. Maybe she was tired of yogurt.

The cucumber salad was a pretty lame salad. Sliced cucumbers with thinly sliced onion and some of the ranch dressing from the previous day. Tasted pretty good, though.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

And Now, For Words

I took the trouble to take all these photos and got them downloaded and everything, so I guess I might as well put them here. Of course, that requires words, too. I'll do my best.

I decided to make peach jam with all those peaches we were given, mostly so I could give some peach jam to the peach-givers. I didn't have any pectin, though, and the nearest store that carries it is I think about fifty miles away. I have a recipe that calls for two Granny Smith apples to use as a natural pectin source, but I didn't have those, either.

When I mentioned that to A., however, he reminded me of all the random apple trees on abandoned properties all over the village. (There are quite a few abandoned properties here.) Oh yeah.

I was going for a wan* yesterday morning anyway, so I took a route through some of the village streets and sure enough, I found an apple tree with small green apples at an abandoned house. No one was there--if someone had been there, I would have explained and asked for some apples in exchange for jam, of course--and I didn't even have to leave the road to pick the apples, so I figured a few green apples wouldn't be missed.

As soon as I got home, I put Poppy down for her morning nap, and Jack and I got to work.

I put the peaches in boiling water, then in ice water. Jack took them out of the ice water and peeled them for me.

He was actually quite competent with this.

I pitted and diced the peaches, then put them in a pot with sugar to cook for awhile. While they were cooking, I cut up the apples, putting the cores in a cheesecloth bag, as per instructions.

Seriously. A cheesecloth bag of apple cores. This gives you an indication of what a pain in the ass this recipe was.

After the peaches had gotten soft, I strained out the juices and put the juice back in the pot to boil with the apples and cores, until it had reduced and gotten syrupy. Then the peaches went back in the pot with some lemon juice. Thankfully, I had just purchased lemons with no particular purpose in mind for them and had just enough for this recipe.

It was supposed to boil until a dab of it was thick on a chilled plate. I hate this instruction. I can NEVER figure out if jam or jelly is done with the chilled plate method. Thankfully, the recipe specifically stated that the jam never actually gels, so I just boiled it until it seemed thick to me.

Just as I was finishing up the jam and getting ready to can it, Poppy woke up. So the canning was done with her crawling around on the floor.

And Jack stationed by the stove in his chair. Not so helpful this time.

Start to finish, it took three hours. For three pints of jam. 

Worth it? Jury's out.

Well, we also peeled the remainder of the peaches and mashed them up with honey to mix with yogurt, so that was another quart and a half.

And it is really good jam.

Then today when I had to cook chicken to make an enchilada casserole, I realized I would not be able to freeze the resulting stock. Because the only freezer I have is the one above the refrigerator, and it's jam-packed with meat.

So I had to pressure can the stock. 

I did, and let the canner properly come down to 0 PSI and let everything decompress. But when I took the jars out, two of them spit and on one, the lid and ring flew right off.

What the hell?

The stock didn't spray everywhere, and luckily no one was nearby at the time, but I was still unhappy. Only three quarts of the five actually sealed.


I don't have pictures of that, though.

The end.

* I just made this word up. I walk as much as I run, so I'm gonna call it a wan. Get it? I know. My cleverness amazes even me.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Peach Magnet

There seems to be something about me that attracts old men bearing peaches.

At Blackrock, it was our very elderly neighbor who dropped off baskets of peaches that I managed, despite a ten-month-old baby and two other children, to make into canned peaches and a LOT of peach puree for yogurt.

And now I have another ten-month-old baby and three other children, and there are more elderly men dropping off peaches.

The first to come by was Rafael, our most excellent produce supplier. He pulled up on Sunday in his white pick-up truck with a bucket of small yellow peaches from one of his trees. He told us he had picked 15 gallons, so we should take the whole bucket.

I had no problem with that.

Then this morning, another white pick-up truck* pulled up in front of the house, this time with Nick. Nick is also an older man who goes to our church. He lives a few blocks away in the village. He brought us a bag of slightly larger white peaches.

It appears we already have a reputation as people who will take excess produce. I'm fine with that reputation, especially if it results in ten pounds of free, delicious peaches.

* Never have I seen so many white pick-up trucks. It's become something of a running joke with me and A., all the white pick-up trucks driving slowly around. He tells me it's because the white ones are the cheapest heavy-duty trucks. I just think it looks like an episode of The Twilight Zone.