Sunday, December 29, 2019

It's Been Awhile



Cubby went out about seven this morning to shoot some more of the wretched rabbits and discovered those two baby boys there lying on the frozen ground with their mother. They had been born very recently, which was lucky for them because it was 20 degrees outside.

A. carried them into the shed he had prepared for them and put a small space heater in there to help out the smaller, weaker lamb. After a couple of hours drying out in the hay, he was up and nursing with his brother. Mother and babies were out this afternoon, grazing and nursing, respectively.

Cubby is very excited because he chose market lamb as one of his 4-H projects this year, and one of those boys there will probably be his show lamb.

There's one other ewe that looks pretty close to lambing, but we hope she holds off until it's not in the teens at night. We'll see.

So. Anyone remember Current Lamb Count? Here it is, after many years lamb-less.

Current Lamb Count: Two--two boys, no girls. And an unknown number of ewes left to deliver.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Friday Food: Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my fortieth birthday. Thus far in my forty years, perhaps my greatest accomplishment has been the fact that I've been writing down every single dinner I've cooked for 92 weeks.

Let's continue with Week 93, shall we?


Short version: Pizza, chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

Long version: This was Jack's choice for his birthday meal, but it was two days late because this was when we had time to do it.

I made one cheese pizza, and one with spinach and green onion on it, plus half of that one had bacon and anchovy paste. And I didn't oversalt it this time. Yay me.

The chocolate cake was Great-Great-Grandma Bishop's cake, which I appreciate especially for the fact that the recipe as written makes only one 8-inch cake pan of cake. That's all we need for our family. More than we need, actually. A two-layer cake would be complete overkill.

I figured you needed a picture of the latest Ugly Cake.

A new low.

I was kind of amazed that Jack identified the 5 on his cake while I was putting the chocolate chips on. That was quite a feat given that he's just recently learned his numbers and that is a really whacked-out 5.


Short version: Elk, rice, green salad

Long version: I had been planning on making something a bit more involved, but it ended up being a very busy day with animals and outdoor things and I didn't get in the kitchen to make dinner until almost 5 p.m. I had already trimmed and sliced the elk, so I just cooked it quickly with some random spices. Nothing exciting, but everyone was fed in a timely fashion, so yay me.


Short version: Mexican elk and rice skillet, green salad

Long version: Diced elk, leftover rice, cheese, salsa, and Mexican spices. And this time, the very exciting addition of some frozen corn I bought for the children. Ever the indulgent mother, that's me.


Short version: More elk, bread and butter, frozen garden green beans

Long version: We went to the Big Town this day and I bought some pork chops for dinner, knowing I would be tired and would want something quick-cooking. And also maybe to have a break from trimming elk meat.

Then the pork chops somehow got left at the store. We weren't going to be driving 180 more miles to retrieve six pork chops, so it was on to Plan B, which I did not actually have planned. Serious bummer.

There was a big bag of thawed but untrimmed elk in the refrigerator waiting on A. to make jerky, so I trimmed some of that and seared it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. It was okay. As was the rest of this very hasty meal.


Short version: Elk and potatoes, green salad

Long version: A. made jerky this day, and with the meat he trimmed while he was cutting the elk for jerky, he made some elk with chili. It was just elk, garlic, salt, and red chili paste. After it had cooked down, though, it was too salty. So I added some diced potatoes to it, along with some more water, and cooked that until the potatoes were cooked and had absorbed all the liquid and excess salt.

It turned out pretty well, though I did add some sour cream to the kids' bowls to tone down the chili a little bit.


Short version: Merry Christmas! Have some rolled food.

Long version: Tamales are a very traditional Christmas meal in New Mexico. I love tamales, but they're always too spicy for me. So I figured I would make my own, exactly the way I want them. I found the corn husks in the tiny grocery store ten miles away.

The filling I made from beef rib meat and our own roasted green chilis, chili powder, cumin, salt, and a lot of paprika. The beef ribs don't fall apart like a pork shoulder or something would, so I put all of it in the food processor for a minute to get properly shreddy.

I used these instructions for the masa part of the tamales and the assembly. If you look at that, you will see why tamales taste so good: fat. The masa is almost four cups of corn flour and a cup and a quarter of fat. I used a combination of beef tallow that had rendered out of the ribs, and sheep tallow that we've had around since last spring.

Maybe a quarter of my tamales sort of fell apart while cooking, but the rest were incredibly good. Like, really, really good. Like, restaurant good.

Not to congratulate myself too gratuitously, but they were SO GOOD. They are most certainly time-intensive and somewhat tricky, but definitely worth it for a special occasion. I feel a tradition being born.

Tamale bouquet in a pot.

I also made a chocolate roulade, which is a thin, flourless chocolate cake rolled around whipped cream. This is not a cake I would make on a regular basis. There's a pot on the stove for a ganache, severely beaten egg whites to lighten the ganache, baking the cake, cooking the cake, whipping the cream, rolling the whole cake around the whipped cream, and sifting cocoa powder and powdered sugar.

It's a process. But it is also worth it. This cake is fabulous, and worth it every once in awhile. Like the tamales.


Short version: Elk, roasted potatoes, roasted bell pepper/ onion, green salad

Long version: When we were at the FFA Christmas dinner/program, the elderly gentleman who owns the mechanic's garage we bring our cars to stood up to let everyone know he had a truck parked in the lot with boxes of potatoes for anyone who wanted them. I don't know why he had the potatoes--he also donates pumpkins to every child at the school every Halloween, so he must have some connection to a farm--but we certainly took advantage.

We got three boxes of potatoes. They're Idaho potatoes, and they're HUUUUGE.

Teaspoon for scale.

Obviously, I have a lot of potatoes to use. I only needed to peel and dice two of those potatoes to make enough roasted potatoes for all six of us.

The MiL one time, after laboriously peeling all the tiny potatoes left from our potato harvest, drolly proclaimed that a bunch of tiny potatoes ought to be called "an irritation of potatoes." She would appreciate these potatoes. I do.

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Photos

As is always the case on Christmas day, we had a merry day, but I am now beat and will throw some pictures and captions your way rather than trying to form a coherent narrative.

So! Stockings!

And very poor lighting.

Presents and general chaos!

And more poor lighting.

A brisk walk/ride in the early morning before it got windy.

Four children, two dogs, and a horse. What a circus. But good lighting.

And tamale making with helpers.

Which is why it took me like an hour to assemble 26 tamales, but whatever. Family bonding is the name of the Christmas game.

I hope your Christmas was merry as well, whatever that looks like for you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Children Are Nestled All Snug in Their Beds

And the Christmas Shrub has come into its own:

It may be a shrub, but it has plenty of room underneath for presents. And isn't that all that really matters?

Merry Christmas Eve, my lovelies. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Friday Family Fun: The Christmas Shrub Edition

It's the eve of Christmas Eve Eve! Are you all ready? Do you have all your cookies decorated and delivered? Your dozens of gifts all wrapped in coordinating paper? Your three Christmas trees decorated according to their respective themes and color palettes?

Of course you don't. Only Instagram does, and that is not real life.

I don't know about you, but in my real life, we didn't even have a Christmas tree until Friday, and it . . . isn't an Instagram tree.

I will explain. With photos.

Last year we cut our tree at Wally's ranch, since we happened to be there at about the right time while we were out cutting firewood. It was a pinyon, which is a nice shape for a Christmas tree. They tend to be somewhat small, but I actually prefer smaller trees--fewer strands of lights and ornaments needed--so it was fine.

This year, however, we thought it'd be kind of weird to randomly show up at Wally's now that A. isn't working on his house anymore, so we thought we'd ask our neighbor if we could cut one near his canyon. I always feel somewhat awkward asking for things like that, although our neighbor quite obviously did not care in the least. I know that because when I asked him, he said, "Sure. I don't care."

We didn't get to it until after school was out for the break, though, so we went on Friday.

First we had to climb over the gate, because the one we usually go through was locked.

This made it seem a bit illicit, so I was glad I had gotten explicit permission.

It was a beautiful day, very sunny, though it had been quite cold the night before. This meant that the stock tank near the road had a very satisfying layer of ice on it.

Who needs a fancy Christmas tree farm with sleigh rides and cocoa when you have a frozen stock tank to whack with sticks?

I left the family there and took my bodyguards with me for a tree-scouting sortie.

Not that they would be much help if there were a mountain lion, but at least they'd bark.

Unfortunately, we weren't far enough down to find the pinyons. The trees all around us were only cedars, which grow much more bushy than I would have liked. However, beggars can't be choosers, so I found the most tree-shaped shrub I could and had Cubby cut it down.

Then he and Charlie carried it back to the stock tank, where A. set it in the water while the children played some more.

Useful things, stock tanks.

The boys started climbing a large cedar behind us, so Poppy and I spent some time bonding with Odin.

Odin always feels safest when he's hidden. 

Then we brought our shrub home, set it up, and decorated it. I did this by wrapping two strings of lights around it and handing off the box of non-breakable ornaments to the children. This mostly consists of all the ornaments they've made at school over the past several years. So they actually did all the decorating. 

It really is a shame that my lack of an Instagram account deprives people of carefully styled photos like this one.

As you can see, our Christmas tree is more like a Christmas shrub. It does, however, have a very nice Christmas tree scent, and as the children were decorating it, Charlie stood back and said, "Now our tree is starting to look merry." So I guess they don't remember or care what our big, northern-grown Christmas trees used to look like.

Pretty sure all they care about is that there are lights on the thing and some presents under it come December 25th. And that, we can manage.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Five (and Two Days)

Happy birthday to
easygoing Jack. 

Friday Food: Now with Old, Random Photos of Tiny Children

I did not take a single photo this week. So to keep things interesting while I blather on about food, I pulled some old photos from my Google photos. Please enjoy.


Short version: Tuna salad sandwiches, frozen green beans

Long version: I was all set to make pizza, but then A. decided last-minute to go camp where he and Cubby were hunting for deer the next day, so instead the remaining children and I had tuna salad with the fresh bread I had baked that afternoon.

And yes, the green beans were still frozen. The boys like them that way, and I was eating squash, so I didn't care.


Short version: Pizza, green salad

Long version: This pizza was courtesy of my parents, who brought the mozzarella cheese, as well as fresh basil from my dad's Tucson garden.

I made one cheese pizza and one with onions, mushrooms, and bacon on half. I used the bacon because I forgot to get pepperoni at the store. The bacon was good, though, so I might just use that from now on.

Too bad I oversalted the dough a bit. Boo.

Look! It's baby Poppy!

With crazy hair courtesy of brother Cubby.


Short version: Ribeye steaks, mashed potatoes, squash, raw tomatoes, chocolate pudding

Long version: A. had requested a chocolate roulade--a flourless chocolate cake rolled around whipped cream--for his birthday, but I couldn't get enough heavy cream to make it. I made the pudding instead. It was very good, and held a candle satisfactorily for the birthday wish. Maybe I'll make the roulade for Christmas.

As per the MiL's advice, I was very careful not to taste the pudding as I was making it, and I had no problem getting it thick this time. Lesson learned: No spit in the pudding or it won't thicken.


Short version: A plethora of previously-prepared foods, plus an omelet for A. and frozen green beans

Long version: So many lovely leftovers to choose from on this workday on which I was also battling a cold.

Let's see . . . Charlie and Jack had chicken tacos.

Poppy had a tortilla and cheese.

Cubby had steak and mashed potatoes with cheese.

A. had steak, an omelet with cheese and leftover mushrooms and onions, and tortillas and cheese, and the last of the mashed squash.

I had mashed potatoes with cheese and a separate avocado half just plain with salt. I was planning on having a salad, but it was freezing and I was sick and comfort food won out.

Everyone had green beans. The green beans from our garden are really SO much better than the frozen store ones. This is not news to me, but a good thing to remember when I'm snapping the ends off my millionth green bean in the summer and doubting if it's really worth it.

Look! Tiny Charlie and Cubby!

And some enormous zucchini from our garden on the Canadian border.


Short version: Elk, vegetable soup, garlic bread

Long version: The elk was marinated in olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, then seared on the griddle pan with more garlic powder, pepper, and some paprika.

The soup had onion, celery, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, tomato juice, green peas, and chicken stock in it. I totally forgot to put in garlic, so I shook in garlic powder, which is definitely not as good as fresh garlic.

Jack, Cubby, Lillian, and I had the soup, bread, and some very good extra-sharp cheddar cheese my parents brought us. I love sharp cheddar, and it's hard to get here.

Charlie had the elk, bread, and some still-frozen peas, and A. had everything.

While I was putting the elk on the griddle, Jack came in and said, "Oh no, meat again."

Then Charlie came in and looked in the soup pot and said, "Oh no, not soup."

And that is why we had both. Welcome to life with young children.


Short version: FFA food

Long version: We went to the Future Farmers of America Christmas program at the school. First we watched all three boys perform with their various classes, and then we all ate ham, rice, startlingly sweet green beans with bacon, salad, and lemonade pie.

This was Jack's birthday, but we couldn't do any real celebrating thanks to school and the evening entertainment. I told him we would do whatever he wanted and have his cake and everything on Friday. So that's why I didn't post the traditional birthday picture.

Sure it is. It had nothing to do with the fact that my cell phone permanently lives in the school bus and I was kind of drowning in holiday cheer expectations.

Look! Tiny Jack!

With a giant beer can. Classy.


Short version: Elk, mashed potatoes, salad

Long version: Earlier in the week, while I was silently planning things like teacher gifts and the children's outfits for the school performance and calling our neighbor to see if we could cut a Christmas tree in his canyon and how I could festively wrap the school gift exchange gifts (since I don't buy wrapping paper) and all the other million things that go along with the most wonderful time of the year, I suddenly vocalized my innermost feelings to A. by saying, "You know, this season is a marathon for moms. I mean, maybe there are some dads who help out, but I don't think there are too many dads out there who are making the Christmas magic happen."

To which A. replied, "Well, I wouldn't want to intrude on your purview."


Anyway. The marathon isn't really over with yet, since it's not Christmas yet, but this at least was the day the external obligations ended. They ended with Cubby and Charlie's class parties, to which I contributed brownies and two extra children in the persons of Jack and Poppy.

Then I came home, prepped everything for dinner, and had a Sidecar.

While we were eating, both Cubby and Charlie remarked how particularly good the food was. "Maybe," I suggested, "Because it's not sugar?" They acknowledged the truth of this.

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

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Woodchuck Man's 39th Year Commences

Today, A. turns 39 years old, and we all know what that means. It means it's time for my own terrible "The Woochuck Man Can" song! Whee!

This is actually the eighth version of this song. I think they get worse every year, but it's the thought that counts, right? Links to all previous versions can be found here.

Okay, you ready? Here we go!

Who can grow garlic
To feed us through the year?

Who can drive the family cross-country, avoiding many tears?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can do the laundry
When the washing machine got broke?

Who can take his son out hunting where other men would choke?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can rig the rake
To pick up all our crap?

Who can build a double clothesline that makes his wife clap?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Happy birthday to A. Long may you prosper in your woodchuck ways.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday Food: Look! Food!


Short version: Pizza elk, pasta, frozen peas

Long version: "Pizza elk" = browned elk cooked with marinara sauce and covered with mozzarella.

The pasta for the kids ended up being mostly butter and garlic powder, because I didn't have much of the sauce left. They didn't care. Pretty sure they'd eat pasta with nothing on it at all.


Short version: Barbecue elk, rice, squash, raw tomatoes

Long version: I cooked the elk pieces in some of the smoked venison stock to get them tender, then added some barbecue sauce.

The squash was another one of our big green volunteers, and that means a LOT of squash. Good thing it's tasty.


Short version: Leftover elk, bread and butter, coleslaw, more squash

Long version: I had actually made the coleslaw a few days before to use some of an enormous cabbage Rafael gave us, but there were some delicate digestive issues in the house, so I held off on serving it until everyone was feeling better. Unhappy stomachs are not going to be soothed by coleslaw.


Short version: Breakfast sausage, fried eggs, bread and butter, more coleslaw, more squash

Long version: Hello, workday.


Short version: Elk, bacon, roasted potatoes, more coleslaw, more squash

Long version: This elk was marinated in vinegar, olive oil, salt, and garlic, then seared on my grill pan after I cooked a few pieces of bacon that needed to be used up.

Finally finished the coleslaw. Nowhere near done with the squash, though.


Short version: Meatloaf, baked potatoes, squash, green beans

Long version: My parents arrived for a very short visit right before dinnertime. It was a workday for me, so I prepped the meatloaf the night before and just shoved it in the oven along with the potatoes--parcooked in the microwave for a few minutes first--as soon as I got home.

Both the squash and the frozen green beans came from our garden, which is kind of fun. If you're crazy like me, that is.


Short version: Chicken tacos with homemade corn tortillas, pinto beans, blueberry pie, butter pecan ice cream

Long version: It's not a visit from family if I don't make corn tortillas with the tortilla press my dad made me. Plus, my parents never arrive without bringing coolers full of produce--because they know the way to my heart--which is why we had lettuce AND tomatoes AND avocados.

A feast, indeed.

The pie was the same one that's always at the lodgings my parents stay at when they're here. I usually get vanilla ice cream, but the store was out, so we had butter pecan with it, instead. An excellent combination.

Before dinner, my mom and the two younger children made guacamole, out of which I pretty much made my meal.

Fun with Nana. And a large knife.

Meanwhile, my dad-the-former-pilot was instructing the older two children in the use of the flight simulator on the brand-new computer my parents brought for the children's Christmas present.

Because if you're going to be staring at a screen, you may as well be learning how to fly a plane.

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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

There's No Escaping Sheep

At least, not if you're married to A., who considers life a sad and empty thing if there aren't wool-bearers somewhere on the property.

The last sheep we had were the three ram lambs A. bought to fatten over the summer and feed us over the winter. The last proper flock we had was at least five years ago.

It was a long, sad five years for A.

But no more! For yesterday, the sheep man brought home the beginnings of his new flock.


Those are Merinos. A. drove to the southern part of the state to get them (sleeping in the open trailer on the open range so he could be at the ranch early in the morning, but that's another story) and got them from a large sheep operation that was shipping older ewes to Mexico. There are six ewes there and one ram lamb. Most, if not all, of the ewes are probably pregnant and could have a lamb anytime in the next couple of weeks.

A good start to a flock, indeed.

Although A. and the children were very excited at the arrival of the sheep, you know who wasn't? Samson. 

Well, that's not strictly accurate. He got excited all right. As soon as he caught the scent of the sheep when A. was preparing to unload them, he galloped right across the pasture and jumped two five-foot-high fences to get away from them.

Twenty-three-year-old horses are NOT supposed to do that.

Luckily, we live in a ghost town, so he can run quite a ways before he gets to anything. What he did was make a beeline for one of our neighbors about half a mile away to visit her horse. A. went after him and brought him home with no trouble, and thankfully no injuries from his athletic endeavors.

Then A. spent some time in the pasture with Samson and his halter, feeding him hay, patting him, and reassuring him that his new pasture-mates were nothing to be afraid of. He's fine now.

Don't even think about trying to leap that fence again, Samson.

I have no idea why Samson freaked out the way he did. He's been around plenty of cows, but I guess the scent is different. Luckily, the sheep are accustomed to both horses and dogs, so they were perfectly placid.

Anyway. The current menagerie stands at four chickens, two puppies, one horse, and seven sheep, and who knows how many lambs to come.

At least it's never boring around here.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Friday Food: Mostly Courtesy of Rafael


Short version: Chocolate-chip pancakes

Long version: Yup. That's it. It was just Poppy and me for dinner still, so I made chocolate-chip pancakes.

I could try to justify it by telling you that we ate leftover fried rice with lots of vegetables for breakfast, and vegetable soup for lunch, so we got in our healthy food for the day early. And I could virtuously claim that the pancakes are made of buckwheat flour, which is higher in protein than wheat flour, plus yogurt, eggs, and milk.

And then I would sing, "Mom is great, give us the chocolate pancake."*

But really? They were chocolate-chip pancakes. And they were highly satisfying. So there.

And here we have an unrelated photo of Poppy in action:

Faster than a speeding bullet when fueled by chocolate-chip pancakes.


Short version: Meatloaf, baked potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions, frozen peas

Long version: I think it's obvious from the completeness of this meal that the family was reunited for dinner this night.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: Cubby and I went to the 4-H awards, which included a catered dinner of beef, mashed potatoes, salad, and desserts. Everyone else had leftover meatloaf, rice, baked potato, and peas.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage links, bread and butter, pinto beans, green salad

Long version: My children get incredibly excited about sausage links. Jack actually said, "Sausage! It's just like dessert for us!"

If you say so, Jack.

The green salad was a romaine mix in a bag from the store, and the whole thing tasted like chlorine. Plus, I always feel as if all bagged lettuce is infected with salmonella. All in all, not the most enjoyable salad experience.

I miss my own lettuce.


Short version: Venison and hominy stew, roasted vegetables

Long version: Rafael stopped by on Saturday with a smoked leg of venison and the ribs from the deer. His son-in-law shot it and did the smoking. He gave it to Rafael for his dog, but Rafael wasn't about to waste it on his dog when he knew perfectly well we would eat it.

Yes. We will certainly eat this kind of dog food.

A. cut the meat off the ribs and used it to make one of his chili stews with hominy in it. No pig's feet this time, but only because he didn't know I had put them in the big freezer.

The roasted vegetables included the biggest sweet potato in the world. Seriously. This thing was like four times the size of even a big sweet potato. Rafael got it from the commodities drop-off--which is essentially free food for old people who don't get Social Security--and gave it to us because he knew he would never be able to eat it on his own.

We wouldn't have eaten all it ourselves either, but it gave me an idea . . .


Short version: Leftover meatloaf or A.'s stew, bread and butter, raw tomatoes

Long version: The family ate leftovers while I took a big platter of various roasted vegetables--including the gigantic sweet potato--to the school staff holiday party. So clever. And tasty.


Short version: Cabbage and venison soup, fried venison and potatoes, bread and butter

Long version: One of the pieces of meat Rafael gave us was a smoked leg. I cut as much meat off as I could, then boiled the bone to make stock. The meat left after the stock was made had pretty much no flavor, because all the smokiness went into the stock.

I used that stock, plus the smoked meat I had cut off, to make the soup, along with onion, carrot, potato, and cabbage.

The flavorless meat I fried in a lot of sheep tallow with onion, garlic, potatoes, and paprika. Half the family ate this and half ate the soup.

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

* That whole stand-up routine was one of the funniest things ever, and is therefore even more disappointingly ruined by our current knowledge of Bill Cosby's character. Or lack thereof.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday Food: Thanksgiving Fried Rice for Two

A. took the boys to Tucson on Tuesday, which is quite obvious in my cooking. In that I kind of . . . stopped. But don't worry! We still ate.


Short version: Cube steak tacos, Mexican slaw, pinto beans

Long version: I found one more package of cube steaks in the freezer, which I marinated with olive oil, vinegar, chile powder, and cumin, then seared and cut thin for tacos.

They were a little bland, unfortunately, but nothing a little salsa couldn't fix.


Short version: Miss Amelia's chicken soup, bread and butter, leftover tacos

Long version: I hadn't taken any meat out to thaw and was vaguely planning on making tuna patties when Miss Amelia's daughter showed up with a large jar of soup her mother had made for us. It was a chicken soup with celery, potatoes, carrots, and I think barley. Or maybe brown rice. Something kind of chewy, at any rate.

In any case, it was good. That's what most of us had. A. and Charlie, who is not a soup fan, had the rest of the cube steak plus three leftover kibbeh heated up with salsa and put in tortillas with cheese.


Short version: Beef ribs, accidental tongue, roasted potatoes, green salad

Long version: Yeah, about that tongue . . . I did not want the tongue from the cow we bought last year. But somehow I ended up with a package clearly labeled "tongue."

Not clearly enough, apparently, as I grabbed it thinking it was another package of beef ribs and didn't realize until after everything had braised for several hours that there was one thing in there that looked nothing like ribs. Because it was a tongue.

A tongue is very, very identifiable, FYI. I mean, it looks just like what it is. And cows have very large tongues.

I've never cooked a tongue before--and wouldn't have this time had I known what it was--but I think they're supposed to be peeled first. You know, to get rid of the tough covering that has the tastebuds on it. (GROSS.)

I was kind of slicing it open and examining the edible part inside when Cubby wandered into the kitchen and asked what was for dinner.

Could I resist? No. I stuck the very-recognizable large tongue right in his face and cheerily said, "Cow tongue!"

His response? "NO WAY! Hey Charlie, we're having cow tongue for dinner!"

So then we had to have cow tongue for dinner.

It tasted fine, although the texture was a little soft for me. The kids liked it. Nevertheless, I couldn't face more dissection of the tongue, and cut up what was left for the dogs. They liked it, too.


Short version: Meat+rice+cheese, Mexican-style

Long version: This was the remainder of the meat from the beef ribs (NOT THE TONGUE) that I put in the skillet with some green chiles and salsa before adding the cooked rice and shredded cheese.


Short version: Vegetable and bean soup, bread and butter, cheese

Long version: A. left early this morning with the boys to go to Tucson to see family, leaving just Poppy and me at home. It was horribly windy and I was freezing all day. So I made soup, because vegetable soup and cheese is my idea of a perfect meal. And there were no militant carnivores around.


Short version: Second verse, same as the first

Long version: More soup. More cheese. More bread. Why cook again if I don't have to? WHEEEE!

Sampling the chocolate chip cookies we made this day. Also whee.


Short version: Fried rice, chocolate chip cookies

Long version: In honor of the holiday, I decided we should have something other than leftovers. Although, since I used leftover rice and leftover roasted bell pepper and onion in the fried rice, I'm not sure it counts.

Please admire my fancy Thanksgiving tablescape:

Paper-plate-and-Dixie-cup turkey courtesy of Jack's preschool Thanksgiving craft project.

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

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Yup. For this whole messy, chaotic life. And especially for the mess- and chaos-makers.

Happy Thanksgiving, my lovelies. I hope it's filled with the best kind of chaos.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Waiting on the World To Change

It is currently 31 degrees, dry, and windy. But when I get up tomorrow it will be snowing. And it will continue snowing most of tomorrow and tomorrow night.

I was not dreaming of a white Thanksgiving, if only because it makes animal care so much more difficult. They still need food and water, even if their hay is covered in six inches of snow and the outside tap is frozen. And even if the power goes out, which is a distinct possibility.

So I took some measures to ensure that no matter what happens tomorrow, I can feed and water our growing menagerie without too much aggravation.

First I placed a large tub in A.'s office--which has a door leading directly into the shop--and filled it with water. That way I'll have plenty of water to put in buckets for the horse, chickens, and dogs, with or without a functioning tap or water pump.

No one needs to go in and out of that door anyway, right?

I used some rocks to secure a tarp over part of Samson's hay in the pasture, because it's not under cover and if it snows as much as they think it will, he might have a hard time getting to it. I might have to dig the tarp out a bit, but at least once it's moveable, I can just flip it off to uncover the dry hay underneath.

For the chickens, I cooked a couple of the greenish pumpkins from the volunteer plants. They'll probably stay in their coop for a couple of days, and having food for them to peck at keeps them from pecking at each other.

And finally, for the humans, Poppy and I made chocolate chip cookies.

I suppose we could eat some pumpkin, too, but cookies sounded much more appealing.

Okay, Mama N. I'm ready as I'll ever be. Bring on the Thanksgiving snow. (But not too much, okay? Thanks.)

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Greek Romances and "The Hobbit"

Charlie recently finished reading The Hobbit and was fascinated by the roman numerals used for the chapters in that book. I explained what each letter stood for and how to read them in order to figure out what number was represented.

It took me a few minutes, though, to connect that with his question this morning: "How do you type Greek romances on the computer?"

Greek/Roman, numerals/romances. Same same.

And also very funny.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Friday Food: Thanks for the Photo, Sis

Apparently, I didn't take a single picture this week. But just as I was about to start typing this up, my sister sent me a photo from nine years ago. Kismet.


Short version: Pizza elk, rice, frozen green peas

Long version: "Pizza elk"=seared elk pieces mixed with leftover marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese.

Just like you would get in Naples. Ahem.


Short version: Elk skillet, frozen green beans

Long version: A. took pity on me and prepped some more elk, deciding to make a recipe he found for a "one-pot Mexican beef and rice" or something.

You know what he made? He made meat+rice+cheese.

It always works, no matter what you call it.


Short version: Pork roast, roasted potatoes, frozen green peas

Long version: Time for an elk break! I pulled out some kind of random, on-sale sirloin pork roast that's been in the freezer for awhile. I coated it in a spice mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and thyme and roasted it until my meat thermometer said it was done.

The thermometer lied. I pulled the roast out and started slicing it, only to find it all pink in the middle*.


So I sliced it anyway, then added it back to the sauce I had quickly made with the pork juices, some beef stock, and mustard and put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. It turned out pretty well in the end.


Short version: A smorgasbord of previously cooked proteins, bread and butter, frozen green beans

Long version: This was not my plan for dinner. My plan, however, did not include getting home late from a 4-H meeting that I thought was on Wednesday.


I didn't realize the meeting was this day until I was halfway through my workday and unable to pivot on my dinner plan for after work. Luckily, there were quite a few different kinds of leftover meat, so I just heated all the meats up, divvied them out, added bread and butter and the green beans, and listened to all the complaints because everyone didn't have the EXACT SAME food and everyone wanted what the person next to him had.

Kids are fun.

And speaking of kids and fun! Here we have the promised photo courtesy of my sister, featuring Baby Cubby eating my knee:

The accompanying e-mail from my sister said, "You look so young and carefree." Yeah, nine years and three kids ago, I guess we did.


Short version: Elk kibbeh with yogurt sauce, roasted potatoes, sauteed mushrooms/tomatoes/onions, fried cabbage

Long version: Kibbeh--which is a sort of Middle Eastern meatball traditionally made with bulghur--seemed like a good use for some of the elk meat. I made it in the food processor, adding chunks of elk, onion, leftover rice, egg, cumin, salt, and pepper and whirling it around until it formed a very unappetizing and sticky paste that I rolled into balls. These were waiting for me in the refrigerator on Monday, but were just fine waiting until Tuesday.

I just baked those until they were cooked through.

The yogurt sauce is plain yogurt, mashed garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and is really good on both the kibbeh and the roasted potatoes.

The tomatoes in the mushrooms were the very last of the tomatoes picked by Jack and Poppy over a month ago. Almost all of them eventually turned red. These ones were kind of sad and wrinkled, but still tasty.


Short version: Fiesta scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, pinto beans, apple slices

Long version: Fiesta=cheese and salsa. Obviously.

When I was roasting the potatoes the day before, I put about double what I needed on the pan and roasted them until they were soft and then removed half of them to save for the next day.

Well, I thought they were soft. They weren't, quite, which was annoying.

The pinto beans were just plain beans I had cooked a few days before to have on hand.

And we had apple slices instead of a vegetable because I'm down to cabbage and a couple of carrots for a vegetable. I even used up all the frozen vegetables. But we did have fresh apples, which is kind of odd. The kids were happy, though. They thought it was a great treat.

There are those low expectations working out for me again.


Short version: Leftover kibbeh, bean and vegetable soup, garlic bread, cheese

Long version: I was going for a kind of minestrone with the soup, and it was kind of like minestrone. Needed more tomato, though.

The carrots in it were the tiny ones from our second planting that I harvested after the hard freeze last month. None of them were thicker than a pencil and not even as long, and I was thinking it wasn't even worth the effort in digging them up and washing them. But then I ended up with a cup of carrots for the soup, so I guess it was worth it in the end. It always is.

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

* Yes, I know current advice is that pork can be a little pink, but this was a LOT pink, and anyway, I don't like it pink. Still freaks me out, no matter what the recommendations by food people are these days.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday Food: Barbacoa for Days


Short version: BLT sandwiches, cucumber slices with salt and vinegar

Long version: I happened to have all the ingredients for this, as well as a great disinclination to trim and prep more of the enormous bowl of elk in the refrigerator.

Everyone liked them, of course, although Charlie ate his BLT deconstructed, because he is an odd child.


Short version: Barbacoa soup, homemade corn tortillas, mashed squash, canned black beans, leftover peas

Long version: Thanks to the infernal time change last week, Poppy has been getting up punishingly early every day. That's why I fell asleep while she was taking a nap this day. While I was sleeping, A. decided to take care of the elk in the refrigerator. He decided to make barbacoa with it, which is a Mexican preparation involving chile and fat and long cooking.

Unfortunately, the elk requires much longer cooking than the beef called for in his recipe, so it wasn't shreddable by dinner time. It was tender enough that he could slice it, though, and serve it as a soup. So that's what he did.

It seems silly to be serving canned beans when I have 35 pounds of dried pinto beans sitting in my pantry. But since I didn't know we were having Mexican food until afternoon, and therefore didn't have time to make the dried beans, I went with the canned beans.

And for an afternoon snack, elevated pistachios:

The better to fend off hungry dogs.


Short version: Leftover barbacoa soup with rice added, potato soup, bread and butter, cheese, tomato and cucumber salad

Long version: Sick Cubby requested soup to soothe his sore throat, so I made him some creamy potato/bacon/cheese soup. For A., I added some rice to his barbacoa and cooked it some more. Then everyone ate whatever combination of things they wanted.

The salad was made from store tomato and a store cucumber, and was thus disappointing. As grocery store food always is.


Short version: Leftover barbacoa and rice with cheese added, sliced cucumber with vinegar and salt

Long version: A. had said he was going to make something with the ground beef I had taken out, but he decided we should finish up the barbacoa first. So I heated it up with some cheese and added sour cream to the kids' bowls so it wouldn't be so spicy.


Short version: Barbecue meatballs, garlic bread, coleslaw

Long version: The ground beef was still in the refrigerator, so I made two batches of meatballs. I browned them under the broiler, then cooked one pan with barbecue sauce for dinner this night and put the other in the refrigerator, covered with marinara sauce, for the next day.

I made the coleslaw because I had a quarter of a cabbage that needed to be used, and all of my children love coleslaw. It occurred to me as I was grating cabbage and carrots and making a damn mess--as I always do when grating cabbage and carrots--that I would probably make coleslaw a lot more frequently if I could buy those bags of prepared coleslaw vegetables.

But I can't buy those bags, so it remains an infrequent but always appreciated treat. Probably for the best.

A. finished the last bowl of the everlasting barbacoa.

And speaking of everlasting, these are the last flowers from the mixed bouquet my sister brought with her when she came to visit us . . . four weeks ago.

Okay, so I actually chucked these flowers on Tuesday, but that still means they lasted for over three weeks. I find that a bit alarming.


Short version: Meatballs with marinara, pasta with marinara, leftover coleslaw

Long version: I had made the marinara sauce the day before when I had the food processor out to make the meatballs, so all I had to do was bake the meatballs and boil the pasta.

I put some Romano cheese on a few of the meatballs for A., and Charlie came in the kitchen and said, "I know what THAT smell is, and I'm not eating dinner."

I assured him that there would be no stinky cheese on his meatballs, though he continued to look highly suspicious until he sat down and sniffed his food.

I was very glad I had mostly prepped this the day before, as this was the day I felt the onset of what Charlie has been referring to as "the family plague."


Short version: Barbecue beef, baked potatoes, frozen peas

Long version: I felt pretty awful this day, but colds wax and wane, so during one of the waning periods I shoved a frozen chuck roast in the oven and later, a few potatoes.

At dinnertime, all I had to do was pull the meat apart and add barbecue sauce, plus nuke the peas.

I also used a couple of the baked potatoes to make myself some potato and cheese soup. Some of the cheese also went on the baked potatoes, because I was out of sour cream.

Not the best meal, but this is what happens on sick days when takeout isn't an option.

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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Introductions Are in Order


As of yesterday, we have a horse.

Everyone, meet Samson.

Samson, meet everyone.

Samson was given to us by one of the teachers at the school, who also co-owns a ranch down the hill and runs the quarter-horse breeding program there. Her family has had a horse operation for generations, and to say she knows horses is a great understatement. Samson was the horse her own daughter, now grown, learned to ride on and won many competitions with.

Samson is now 22 years old and has bad teeth, which means he can't just graze on pasture like all horses do here. He needs special senior horse feed, which is expensive and requires someone to actually feed him twice a day. 

On a large ranch, this care quickly becomes burdensome and impractical, as well as expensive. So Samson really couldn't stay where he was, but they didn't want to just put him down, because besides his teeth, he's in very good shape.

So she thought of us. I had asked her about riding lessons for the boys when we first moved here, and she thought maybe we would like Samson.

We would.

Samson is an exceptionally calm and well-trained horse, which is just what our children need. According to the lady we got him from, who taught her own two daughters to ride on him, there is no safer horse for children. Good thing, as I know exactly nothing about horses and wouldn't know what to do with a horse that isn't basically like a huge, well-trained dog.

His implacable nature is also useful given that Jasper--who apparently has a deep distrust of horses--spent all day yesterday by the fence, barking at the horse.

Samson was unimpressed.

Samson is living in half of the back pasture with the chickens. It's a little louder here than what he was used to, but it doesn't seem to bother him.

Welcome to Crazytown, Samson. We're so glad you're here.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Friday Food: Sick Children Abound


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, mashed potatoes, mashed squash, green salad

Long version: My plan was to make roasted potatoes, but Charlie still had a wicked sore throat, so I mashed the potatoes instead so he could eat those for dinner with some cheese.

The squash was one of the volunteers from the backyard. This mysterious variety was one of the more interesting-looking ones--meaning it wasn't just a pumpkin--so I had high hopes it would be tasty.

My definition of "tasty" for squash is one that comes as close to a sweet potato as possible. That is, dense, sweet, and not watery.

This one delivered. Good thing, too, as it was a really big one that left me with a LOT of cooked squash.

This is my biggest container. It holds probably two gallons. The squash didn't fill it, but pretty dang close.


Short version: Barbecue elk, rice, green peas

Long version: We went to see a (wo)man about a horse and didn't get home until later than I had anticipated. I had already prepped the elk meat by trimming it and cutting it into thin slices, then put it in a marinade of olive oil, vinegar, salt, and garlic. When we got home, I browned it on my cast iron grill pan--the best way to get a lot of meat browned without it steaming in the released liquid, yuck--and then I mixed in some barbecue sauce.


Short version: Elk tacos, squash soup, chile beans, green salad

Long version: I used the remainder of the elk meat I had prepped and marinated the day before for the tacos. I simmered it for awhile in some tomato juice and and cumin and chile powder to make it a bit more tender.

I had intended to make homemade tortillas, but then A. ended up on an hours-long odyssey to get hay and didn't get home until 9 p.m. Making tortillas is not something I want to do with children under my feet, so they got store-bought tortillas.

The soup was nothing more than the cooked squash, onion, chicken stock, and a bit of cream. It used up a gratifying amount of squash, as well as a couple of the numerous containers of chicken stock in the freezer. It was good, but next time I think I'll add some bacon.

"Chile beans" means pinto beans that I added onion, tomato, and spices to while I cooked them. I prefer them this way rather than plain, but lately I've been too lazy to do the add-ins.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, squash soup, cheese, bread and butter, raw carrots

Long version: Didn't we just have cheeseburgers on Friday? Yes. But this was a Monday and a workday for me, and therefore required something quick to cook.


Short version: Carnitas beef, leftover rice, roasted sweet potatoes/bell pepper/onion, frozen green beans

Long version: The beef was a chuck roast that I put in the oven completely frozen and cooked a long time with just salt, pepper, garlic salt, vinegar, and water, then cut into pieces and fried in tallow with more salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

This method of braising the meat first and then browning it--rather than the other way around--is the method used to make carnitas, and is very useful for people like me who hate the spattering of browning raw meat. And also never take meat out to thaw in time. Ahem.

Speaking of frozen . . .

This is what it looked like out my back door the previous Tuesday. Cozy.


Short version: I dunno. Stuff on plates.

Long version: This was a rough day at work, and capping it off with vomit as soon as I arrived home  took care of any ambition I might have had to make anything interesting for dinner.

Luckily, we had just enough leftover meat--carnitas beef and hamburgers--to go around. I supplemented that with tortillas and cheese and cucumber slices with vinegar and salt and called it done.

I would normally have served bread and butter with this sort of meal, but we were out of bread. That was the kind of day I was having.


Short version: Elk, garlic bread, frozen peas, elderly watermelon

Long version: Same old thing with the elk: trimmed, sliced thin, marinated in olive oil, salt, and lots of vinegar and garlic, then seared.

The elderly watermelon was disappointing. It's not as if I forgot about the watermelon Rafael gave us a couple of weeks ago. It's just that watermelon is somehow not quite as appealing when it's below freezing outside, and also with all the Halloween treats and candy around, fruit for dessert has not been so common.

In any case, I let it go too long. It still tasted good, but it had gotten kind of mushy. Bummer. I was just going to give it to the chickens, but instead I decided to make juice out of it.

From that large watermelon, I got about a gallon and a half of juice, and a really sticky mess in the kitchen to clean up. But at least I didn't waste it.

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Talk About Timing

This afternoon while I was working at the school, Jack's preschool teacher came to find me to tell me that he was running a slight fever and not feeling well. There was only about an hour left of the school day, so he spent the remainder of the day under a blanket reading books in the corner of his classroom.

He was looking pretty miserable by the time we all boarded the school bus to go home, and by the time we actually got home fifteen minutes later, he was sobbing.

He tearfully asked me to carry him off the bus and into the house. Unfortunately, that was not possible, given my load of my own backpack, his backpack, and Poppy. Cubby offered to carry him off and just as they got to the bottom of the bus steps, Jack threw up all over.

A little bit of it got on the bottom step of the bus, but most of it landed on the ground*. He threw up again while he was walking the rest of the way to the house.

As sorry as I felt for him, I mostly felt relief that he did it somewhere where I didn't have to clean it up. It would have been a real mess on the bus.

Good job on waiting until you were in the great outdoors, Jack. Your teacher and I both thank you.

* A tiny bit also got on Cubby's hand, which is really gross and a poor repayment for being such a nice older brother.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friday Food: Snow Days and Sugar Overload


Short version: Scrounged food, carrot sticks

Long version: We had to take the puppies in to the larger town for a late-afternoon vet appointment for their shots. I wasn't sure if I would be able to find something at the grocery store to have a roadside picnic or if we would just go home.

We just went home.

We got home at 5:30 p.m. and everyone ate some version of the leftover elk chili, tortillas, and cheese. I had a salad with the very last avocado my sister brought with her and some hard salami I had gotten at the store.

You know you live a lot of miles from a store when salami is an occasional treat.


Short version: Halloween buffet in the village

Long version: This was the night of the Halloween celebration in the village. The one restaurant has a baked potato bar buffet that's free for kids, which is pretty much the only way our family of six is going to be eating at a restaurant.

I skipped the potato and just had the pulled pork, chili beans, and Fritos with various toppings. The kids mostly skipped real food entirely and homed in on the completely laden dessert table.


Short version: Meatloaf, baked potatoes, curried cauliflower, cucumber slices, raw tomatoes

Long version: "Good news!" I announced cheerily to A.-the-cauliflower-hater. "We're having curried cauliflower with dinner!" To which he replied, "Oh good. Cruciferous vegetables with curry powder are really what I've been missing now that we're so far from fresh produce."

So much sarcasm in that kitchen.

Cubby and I enjoyed our curried cauliflower, though. So did Poppy. Another for the curried cruciferous vegetable team.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, bacon, mashed potatoes with cheese or bread and butter, carrot sticks

Long version: Nothing to see here. Just another workday dinner in which everyone was fed in a very unfancy manner.


Short version: Elk stir-fry with peanut butter sauce, rice

Long version: This elk is very good for stir-fry, being very lean.

I thriftily used the peanut butter left from Poppy and Jack's snack of pretzel sticks dipped in peanut butter for the sauce.

In the morning I made a few dozen chocolate chip cookies for Cubby and Charlie's school Halloween party on Thursday. While I was making my cookies, Jack and Poppy were making some chocolate chip cookies that looked exactly like dominoes. Because they were dominoes.

Domino cookies are the specialty of Poppy's Very Pink Play Kitchen.


Short version: Pizza elk, pasta with marinara sauce, green salad

Long version: We started the day by losing power at 6 a.m. Charlie got up a short time later and immediately asked, "But how will I read my book? Oh, never mind. There's a candle."

Abe Lincoln's got nothing on him*.

The roads were icy, it was snowing, and we were surrounded by ice fog, so school was canceled. Since it was a Wednesday, this meant that I didn't have to go to work. Hooray.

My very old propane stove actually has pilot lights, so I can cook even without electricity, but I wasn't looking forward to boiling water for dishes. So I was glad that the power was back on by noon.

A. packaged the elk meat by simply stuffing gallon-sized zip bags as full as they could get. This means that when I take a bag of elk out of the freezer, I'm dealing with a LOT of meat. So while I was trimming and cutting the elk for the stir-fry, I did some extra meat and put it in a marinade of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and dried basil and oregano for the next day.

A.'s favorite meat preparation is fried, then mixed with marinara sauce and covered with mozzarella cheese. So that's what I did with the marinated meat. Thus, pizza elk.

I used the rest of the marinara sauce in the pasta, along with some Romano cheese I used in place of our usual Parmesan. A. had purchased the Romano at the cheese factory some time ago, and I figured it was close enough to Parmesan.

Charlie did not agree. He started eating his pasta, made a face, and said, "This pasta tastes okay, but it smells."

So I guess I shouldn't try using Limburger next time, then.


Short version: Leftovers, sliced cucumbers

Long version: We all went to Cubby and Charlie's school Halloween party in the afternoon, to kick off the sugar bingeing early. In between the party and trick-or-treating, I managed to get some real food into everyone.

A. ate leftover elk and rice; Jack and Cubby ate leftover elk and pasta; I ate leftover meatloaf and sweet potatoes. Charlie was sick and had a bad sore throat, so I made him some scrambled eggs. He ate those and some rice. Poppy ate scrambled eggs, too, plus some pasta.

After their brothers left to go trick-or-treating with A.--who was not looking forward to a two-hour trailer ride in the forty-degree weather--I let Charlie and Poppy have a candy picnic by the stove with the candy we had already accumulated.

Way more comfortable than that freezing trailer.

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

* For my sister: Please note the flowers you brought us are still going strong two weeks later. Probably because our house is usually so cold it's basically a refrigerator, but still. We're getting your money's worth out of those flowers.