Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday Food: A Tale of Two Kitchens

A. left on Sunday for a week in New York. The MiL sent me an e-mail on Wednesday in which she listed everything she had cooked for him so far. So I can tell you what he ate as well as what we ate. Because I am nothing if not thorough (read: totally insane) when it comes to chronicling the food intake of the entire family.


Short version: Beef soup, bread and butter, leftover meat loaf and rice

Long version: This soup I made for Cubby, because he doesn't like the fact that I always make vegetable soups with mushrooms and zucchini in them. He still eats the soup, he just pulls out the mushrooms and zucchini and piles them on his napkin. This is annoying, but I make vegetable soup for me for the most part, so I still add those vegetables.

This soup, I made for him. So besides the beef--the last of the leftover roast beef--I only added celery, carrots, potatoes, and green peas. He ate two helpings and didn't pick anything out. Yay.


Short version: Pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, roasted mushrooms/bell peppers/onion, frozen green beans

Long version: We went to church in the afternoon this day, so we didn't get home until about 4:45 p.m.

It would have been earlier, except the children LOVE to run laps around this church and have to be forcibly dragged into the car to go home. Fun.

I made the meat sauce and roasted the vegetables earlier in the day, as well as shaped the loaf of dough for the garlic bread. Right before we left, I boiled water in my enameled cast iron pot and then turned it off.

So when we got home, the water was still pretty hot and came to the boil in the same amount of time it took to pre-heat the oven for the bread. The pasta cooked while the bread baked. I re-heated the sauce and vegetables, microwaved the green beans, and we were eating by 5:30 p.m. Yay me.


Short version: Pulled pork sandwiches, Grandma Brown's baked beans, green salad, Rafael's calabaza

Long version: I didn't really plan on having two New York State products with our dinner--Dinosaur BBQ Sauce and the baked beans--on the same night that A. left for a week in New York, but that's what happened. It seemed appropriate.

The boys decided they'd like to keep to our Advent rule of only having a homemade dessert on Sundays, but they lost the privilege of dessert because of bad behavior earlier in the day.

A stellar beginning to our week without Daddy.

However, just as we were finishing dinner, Rafael came by with some pieces of one of his calabazas that he had cooked. He cooks the pieces with butter and brown sugar, so the boys immediately dug into that, and I guess that was their dessert.

I haven't yet cooked the calabaza Rafael gave us in the fall, so I was interested to try it. The texture is actually somewhat similar to spaghetti squash--a bit stringy, rather than smooth like a butternut. It tasted pretty good, although what doesn't when it's covered in butter and brown sugar?

He told me that he smashes it on the ground to break it open, then hacks it into pieces with a hatchet, which sounds remarkably similar to the treatment for opening the dreaded Hubbard squash. So I think I won't be cooking ours until A. can apply his brute strength to the task of cutting it up for me.


Short version: Leftover pasta and meat sauce, sauteed mushrooms/collards/tomato, frozen green beans

Long version: Nope

What A. ate: Braised pork cheeks with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, squash, baked apples, and almond-flour chocolate cookies. Jealous.


Short version: Oven Cornell chicken, baked potatoes, steamed carrots, chocolate chip cookies

Long version: I keep thinking maybe I can find a way to make Cornell chicken good in the oven. I cannot. I'm gonna go ahead and definitively state that Cornell chicken absolutely must be made on a grill to taste right. Otherwise, it's just too wet. Yuck.

Jack doesn't like baked potatoes. How is this possible? I do not know.

I made cookies spur of the moment in the afternoon because Poppy wouldn't sleep and Jack was ping ponging off the walls and . . . well, and I like cookies.

So do these two goobers.

I only made a half recipe, though, because, well, I REALLY like cookies. No sense in tempting myself with four dozen cookies on hand. Because I will eat them. Oh yes, I will. Two dozen is much more reasonable, right? Right.

What A. ate: Ham, leftover mashed potatoes, salad with ranch dressing.


Short version: Leftover pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans, coleslaw

Long version: Cubby and Charlie had their second 4-H meeting right after school. With A. being gone, that meant that all of us had a 4-H meeting. I had a suspicion that I would not be up for much food prep when I rolled in at 5:30 p.m. with all four children. That's why I made the coleslaw in the morning, staged the meat in the pot to re-heat on the stove when I got home, and sliced bread before I left.

My suspicion was correct. Good thing all I had to do was put the pot of pork on the stove and heat the beans in the microwave.

What A. ate: Creamy salt cod on baked potatoes.


Short version: Breakfast sausage links, rice, leftover coleslaw

Long version: You know those small links of breakfast sausage that are like twice the price of loose breakfast sausage? Yeah, my sons LOVE those. And I never buy them. Because they are twice the price of loose sausage, and also, kind of gross. But last time I was at the tiny grocery store, I picked up a couple of packages specifically for a quick and popular dinner while A. was gone.

This was the day. It was quick, and it was popular, even though 3/4 of the children were coughing and running at the nose. Figures they'd all get sick while A. is gone.

I don't know what A. ate. I didn't get a report for this meal from New York. I apologize for the incompleteness of this record, though I think we can all agree that the MiL probably made something way better than breakfast sausage and rice.

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

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Keeping the Home Fires Burnin'

One of A.'s impossibly Dad Things is calling the furnace "the dollar bill burner." As in, "That dollar bill burner is running again; I gotta stoke up the woodstove!"

It's a point of pride with him to keep the fire going hot enough that the furnace doesn't turn on during the day. The first thing he does when he gets up in the morning is squat in front of the woodstove to get the fire going again. He grudgingly concedes that the furnace is a handy back-up, though, so that he doesn't have to get out of his nice warm bed to feed the fire at night*.

But otherwise, he is One With the Woodstove in his quest to minimize our propane use.

However, A. left on Sunday for a week-long trip to Blackrock, leaving the woodstove to my care. Unfortunately, I also have four small children in my care, which makes it significantly more challenging to give the woodstove the attention it requires. Before he left, A. magnanimously told me I could just run the furnace and not worry about the woodstove. I'm sure it hurt him to say that, but I appreciated it.

But! I am proud to announce that I have had the woodstove going--and the furnace not going--every single day he's been gone.

This requires significantly more planning than A. has to do in his woodstove care. For instance, I make sure the night before that I have paper, cardboard, and small pieces of wood so that I can get the fire started in the morning without going in and out of the door, thereby possibly waking up small children.

I can only empty the ashes--which has to be done every other day--when Poppy is safely strapped into her chair at the table and thus can't trip me up on my way out the door with a pan of hot ashes and embers.

I try to get the fire going before she wakes up, too, so that I don't have her standing at my shoulder, staring longingly at the pretty flames while I block her with my body so she doesn't crawl right in there with them.

Nascent morning fire.

Not that she has tried getting too close to the fire, actually. She's pretty cautious, as a matter of fact. And just yesterday, when she had a complete meltdown outside while we were waiting for the school bus that even nursing didn't stop, I brought her with me to stoke up the fire and she calmed right down while she was staring at the flames.

They are quite meditative, I must say. And they've been burning the whole time A. has been gone.

Thus, Ronnie Milsap performs my theme song for the week.

Here's me taking my bow. And washing soot off my hands for the fiftieth time.

* It has occurred to me that since I still get up with Poppy at least twice a night, I could actually shove a piece of wood in there on my way through the kitchen, but . . . no. Shuffling into her room to feed her is challenging enough without adding a live fire and splintery wood into the mix at 2 a.m.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Sucks To Be You

So you decide it's time to take down the Christmas decorations and tree, since Epiphany was actually three days ago. You do not enjoy taking down the Christmas tree, so you get a Chris LeDoux album going on YouTube to make it less painful, haul out the boxes and bags to store the ornaments and lights, and . . . the baby wakes up from a too-short nap.

You decide you're going to put away the Christmas stuff anyway, dammit. You start quickly taking down ornaments and decorations, throwing some of the unbreakable things in the baby's direction to keep her distracted while you put away the breakable things.

This does not work. The baby cries because you will not let her chew on the lights you are untangling from the tree, causing a veritable hailstorm of dry needles to come down, even though there is plenty of water still in the tree bucket. As you discover when you try to lift it.

The baby stops crying when she realizes she can climb on to the small bench the tree was on. She starts crying again when she falls off of it.

You pause for baby comforting, but then grimly soldier on after she calms down. This time, you put her on the big hide-covered bench with a magazine to rip up while you vacuum up the tree needles as fast as you can.

This is when you discover that pinyon needles are so long and stiff that they will clog your vacuum. So you open up every part of the vacuum that will open and dump out the needles into the children's tambourine, as that is the only receptacle to hand.

The baby wants the tambourine full of dirt and needles. She is unhappy when you deny her this treasure.

You then discover that the last remaining part of the vacuum that is clogged up will require a flat-head screwdriver to address. This means a sprint to the shop for the tool and getting back before the baby realizes you aren't in the same room.

Finally, the needles are disposed of and the vacuum is in working order again. You clean up the pieces of ripped-up magazine from the bench, put away the vacuum, and make a mental note to just use the broom or something next year to clean up the tree needles.

(Go ahead and change all instances of "you" to "I," and there you have my morning.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Real Life

You know those people online who only post pictures of their smiling children in perfectly styled clothing? Or only post pictures of their houses when they're perfectly clean and carefully arranged?

I am not one of those people. This is the view from my kitchen most days:

I couldn't have staged this if I tried.

But hey, at least no one is screaming/crying/hitting anyone else! That's as good as it gets around here.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Long-Distance Farewell

Very, very sad news from Blackrock: The MiL's dog Sky was killed on the road in front of the house this weekend. He was chasing a deer on the lakeshore and was hit by a car on his way back across the road. 

The MiL said he was killed instantly and didn't suffer, which I suppose is some comfort. But still. He wasn't even three years old. It was definitely too soon to lose him.

Good-bye to one of the cutest puppies that ever was.