Saturday, September 22, 2018

Friday Family Drama and Saturday Family Fun

"Hold up," you say. "Saturday Family Fun? What is this 'Saturday' nonsense? And what Friday drama? WHAT KIND OF CRAZINESS IS GOING ON OVER THERE?"

Oh, you didn't say that? I'll explain, anyway.

Charlie and Cubby had school this Friday so they would have the day to prepare for . . .

All the world's a stage, you know. 

That was the school play. And incidentally, that group on the stage there? That is the entire school. Well, except the preschoolers, which is why Jack wasn't in it. But that small group in the photo is all the students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

I still have trouble wrapping my head around that one.


The reason they have a school play at such a tiny school is because of a program through the Missoula Children's Theater that sends two guys around in a pick-up truck crammed with all the costumes and "set" (essentially some decorated sheets and boxes, plus sound equipment) to spend a week at small schools like this one rehearsing and staging a play.

They travel to a new school every week and do this. In all fifty states. How exhausting. But great for the kids, because there is no way there would be any kind of drama program in a school this small otherwise.

The play was something entitled "The Snow Queen," and I couldn't follow the plot at all. That may have been because I spent most of the play chasing around a crawling baby and bored three-year-old. I did know that Cubby was a robber and Charlie was a snow chicken.

Yes, a snow chicken. Like I said, it didn't make a lot of sense.

It was fun anyway, though, and Cubby and Charlie both did very well with their songs and so forth.

So that's why there wasn't a Friday Family Fun adventure.

But we couldn't let a whole weekend go by without some kind of Family Fun, could we? Of course not!

Saturday Family Fun it is; canyon, here we come.

We went to the one closest to our house this time. It happens to be the canyon in which Rafael's ranch is located, and is thus the mythical source of the mysterious calabacitas*.

Rafael had shown A. a swimming hole at the bottom of this canyon, so we told the kids to wear shorts and sandals. We really should have known better.

This isn't a state park or something. There isn't even a real trail to get to the swimming hole. There is, instead, a slightly-more-clear path through the cacti to get to the swimming pool. Luckily, no one fell in a prickly pear. Unluckily, the swimming hole really was a hole and far too deep for the children to safely swim in.

Thus, Cubby tried fishing in it:

Because this boy has never seen a body of water he doesn't want to throw a hook into.

The other three played in some sand nearby:

In the shade, even.

And why was that particular spot so fortuitously shaded? Because I used my very body (and an unneeded-for-swimming towel) to shade them:

I call this "A Portrait of Motherhood."

We were only down there for about fifteen minutes before Poppy insisted on trying to crawl around into the pricker bushes and rocks, so we hiked back up.

Can you see the path? No? That's because there isn't one.

Where the brave van was, as always, waiting for us:

Another good one for my (non-existent) Adventure Van Instagram page.

We drove all the way through the canyon to where it met back up with the paved road and came back home. It was a relatively short adventure this time, but it got everyone out of the house for a couple of hours. 

I'm sure we'll make up for the brevity of this trip with some sort of epic all-day Drive of Dread next Friday, but for a Saturday adventure on a short weekend (as a two-day weekend now seems to us spoiled three-day-weekend people), this was just right.

* I think I've identified them for real, but this post is already too long, so you'll have to wait for the big reveal. Hold on to the edges of those seats now.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Food: Fun Cheese Ahead


Short version: Non-traditional Cheesy Deezy, steamed broccoli

Long version: Cheesy Deezy (no idea how that's spelled, but who cares) was a staple of A.'s childhood. The MiL made it with three ingredients. I didn't use any of them.

She used a box of macaroni. I used a bag of gluten-free corn penne.

She used mozzarella. I used asadero and menonita cheese. Menonita is named after the Mennonites in northern Mexico who apparently make a cheddar-style cheese. Menonita is supposed to be like cheddar. This wasn't. More like saltier, slightly aged mozzarella. Good, but not cheddar.

She used a jar of marinara sauce. I made a tomato sauce with garlic, thinly sliced collard greens and beet greens from our garden, a drained can of whole tomatoes mashed with my potato masher, dried oregano and basil, and some chicken stock.

I did follow the procedure for assembly, though. That is, mix the cooked pasta (slightly undercooked, because corn pasta is no good at all when it gets overcooked, and I knew it would cook further in the oven) with the sauce and a hell of a lot of grated cheese, then top with more grated cheese. I mixed in the asadero and topped it with the menonita. Then I baked it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, and finally, I put it under the broiler for just a minute to brown the cheese on top.

It was good. Though I may have to give it a new name that reflects its new ingredients. How about Queso Doble? That means "Double Cheese" in Spanish. Or maybe Queso Divertido ("Fun Cheese").

Or maybe I should forget about being clever and just call it pasta. Probably that.

Hey, guess what? We have a new baby distraction cabinet in this house.

The contents don't make such a satisfying clattering sound as in the one at Blackrock, but they do make a satisfying mess for Mom to trip over while she's cooking. 


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, bread and butter, sauteed mushrooms and onions, green salad, burned sweet potatoes

Long version: The sweet potatoes burned because they were in the oven with the baking bread in the afternoon when A. called to get directions to a Harbor Freight tool store in Springfield, Missouri. By the time I looked it up online and managed to figure out that the Kansas Expressway is also Missouri State Route 13, the sweet potatoes were burned.

It took awhile. Maps are not my forte.

I ate them anyway. The sweet potatoes, I mean. Not the maps.


Short version: Antelope, mashed potatoes, tomatoes with mayonnaise

Long version: The antelope wasn't as good this time because I was lazy. I did not brown it in separate batches, so it kind of bubbled and steamed in the liquid released, rather than really browning. I didn't finely dice any onion, instead just shaking on some garlic powder. I forgot to add chicken stock.

Not my finest cooking moment. Oh well. We ate it. And A. was home! HOORAY! Too bad I didn't welcome him home with a more spectacular meal, but after a week of shingles + solo parenting (or rather, thanks to my parents' well-timed visit, five days), it felt like victory that all the children were still alive and dressed in clean clothing.

Low standards. I am all about them.

But at least the tomatoes were good, because A. drove them all the way across the country from Blackrock. Thanks, MiL.

A Tomato Bowl on the counter makes this crazy tomato lady happy.


Short version: Sausage Surprise, cucumbers

Long version:

Cubby: What's for dinner?

Me: Uh. Something . . . I am . . . making.

Cubby: What're you making?

Me: Um. A sausage skillet?

Cubby, while I was dishing up dinner: I think we should call this Sausage Surprise.

Cubby, eating his second helping: Can you make Sausage Surprise again?

Sure! And to help me remember what the hell I did, here is Cubby's Sausage Surprise: browned spicy "sage sausage" and ground beef, diced onion, garlic, tomato juice and tomato chunks trimmed from the tomatoes that were starting to rot on the counter, rice cooked in chicken stock, green peas, basil, oregano, vinegar, and grated menonita cheese.

Feel free to use that detailed recipe to create your own Sausage Surprise at home. It really will be a surprise. Perhaps a photo of the completed dish would be helpful?

Surprise! It's dog food.


Short version: Chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted bell pepper and onion, choice of leftover rice or mashed potatoes, tomato/cucumber/menonita cheese salad

Long version: I marinated the chicken--drumsticks and thighs--in yogurt, lemon juice, and garlic, and then roasted it with the vegetables, finishing it under the broiler to get crispy. The rest of it is pretty self-explanatory.


Short version: Antelope tacos, pickled carrots, cucumbers

Long version: I didn't have quite enough antelope meat left over to make a full meal. It needed more cooking to tenderize it anyway, as well as more seasoning, so I decided to make it into taco meat. I made a sauce with onion, garlic, tomato, chicken stock, cumin, and chili powder, then simmered the diced antelope meat in that until it was tender. The boys ate theirs on corn tortillas with cheese, carrots, and lettuce.

A. ate the rest of the leftover Sausage Surprise with some of the antelope meat on top.

I made the pickled carrot strips in the morning out of, well, carrot strips (made with a vegetable peeler) submerged in vinegar, salt, and a bit of sugar. They were really good. I like topping tacos with something crunchy and vinegary. It's a good complement. Usually I make Mexican coleslaw with cabbage, but no one else likes it as much as I do. Everyone liked the carrots.


Short version: Roast beef, baked potatoes, roasted calabacitas/carrots/onion, creamy cucumber salad

Long version: I made the roast beef exactly the same way as last time, because it was good that way. It was good again.

The calabacita I cut up for roasting was big enough that A. and I were wondering when they start being called calabazas.

Every time I make cucumber salad with onion, sour cream, vinegar, salt, and sugar, I wonder why I bother eating cucumbers any other way. So good.

Of course, the combination of the cucumber salad and the baked potatoes meant rather a lot of sour cream on the plates. No one complained.

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My Gift To You

I would like to leave you with a smile to carry with you as you continue with your day. To that end, I present to you . . .

The most adorable baby in all the land.

That's all. Have a nice day.

Monday, September 17, 2018

My Idea of Fun

A couple of weeks ago while I was pushing Poppy in her stroller aimlessly around the village, I went down a side street I hadn't been down before and saw a property that had two trees absolutely loaded with apples.

I didn't know who lived there, but based on the age of the pick-up truck in front and the neatness of the property, I was guessing someone elderly. Also based on the fact that the majority of the village residents are elderly, but whatever. I felt very sleuthy.


About a week after that, A. was pushing Poppy aimlessly around in her stroller, with Jack trailing along as well, when Nick the Peach-Giver pulled up in his truck and informed A. that there was a man who had lots of apples and wanted anyone who wanted some to come pick them.

Same property I had seen. It is indeed an older man, who, although not elderly, has multiple sclerosis and therefore can't pick the apples himself.

A. returned with the bottom basket of the stroller overflowing with apples. And there was much rejoicing in our house.

My children absolutely adore apples, you see. But not mealy, tasteless grocery store apples. Their apple palate has been formed in the apple haven of New York State. They know good apples. And they know the ones from the store are not good. So when ten pounds of good apples showed up, they were thrilled.

I was, too. I was all set to make applesauce, because that is what I do when presented with a bunch of apples. I had a suspicion, though, based on the texture of these apples, that they might be more like baking apples instead of saucing apples. Saucing apples break down readily into mush when cooked. Baking apples hold their shape.

When I cooked an experimental small pot of the apples, not only did they hold their shape, they didn't break down at all. I managed to force them through the food mill after much effort, but the resulting sauce was quite mealy and dry.

So now what? Still have a bunch of apples (with more to come*); still needed a way to preserve them.

Then I remembered Rafael telling me about his mother drying apricots. I decided when in New Mexico, one should do as the New Mexicans. So I prepared an experimental sheet pan of apple rings and put them out in the sun (covered in cheesecloth to keep off flies).

The jar in the background of that photo has apple peelings and cores with water to make apple cider vinegar. I did this a few times in northern New York with varying levels of success, but it's not as if it's hard to do or costs anything.


Result? Perfect. This is the perfect climate for sun-drying. Not only is the sun very strong, there's quite a bit of wind, too. Those apple rings were all the way dry after about twelve hours in the sun.

And then they were gone within about an hour in the house. They are so good. And so convenient to just pick up and eat. Even Poppy can eat them.

So I made more, this time also using the broiler pan from the oven.

And then I decided I really needed a way to get more apple slices in the sun without taking up a bunch of space with pans. So now this is in my driveway:

Hi, neighbors!  Don't mind us crazy new people.

If that arrangement works, I can string up as many apple slices as I want. My only limitation is the number of apples I can peel, core, and slice by hand with a knife, because I don't have one of those machines to do it. If this is going to be a yearly event, I might get one of those, but for now it's just me and my paring knife versus a LOT of apples.

And that makes me happy.

* We brought a loaf of bread to the man last night as a thank you--because sourdough bread has now become my currency--and he asked us to pick more apples. We were happy to oblige.