Saturday, February 9, 2019

Oops, I Did It Again

Hey, remember last year when I spent three days baking an absurd variety of treats for Cubby's various birthday celebrations? That was so fun, I decided to do it again!

Not really. But I am going to be doing another crazy baking spree in the next week. This is because of a combination of Cubby's birthday and Valentine's Day. Everyone is supposed to contribute something for Cubby and Charlie's school Valentine's party. I also signed up way back at the beginning of the school year to bring a treat for Jack's class party for Valentine's Day. I have a vague memory of thinking I would be baking that week anyway for Cubby's birthday, so I should just get it all over with at once.

Remind me never to do that again.

Anyway. Here's my oven's schedule for the next five days.

I am currently in the midst of dough preparation for our usual four loaves of sourdough bread, because we're almost out. Again with the excellent timing. That has to be baked tomorrow.

Cubby's birthday is actually on Monday. Tomorrow I have to make Cubby's actual birthday cake. He requested a chocolate cheesecake this year, so I need to make it the day before to give it plenty of time to chill.

Also tomorrow I'll start the sourdough dough for the pizza he wanted for his birthday dinner. What he actually wanted was seafood, but, um, I forgot to get any when we were at the store yesterday, mostly because I was so focused on making sure I had everything for all the sweet treats I'll be making. Not that they would have had anything more exciting than frozen shrimp, but still. I owe him one. Pizza is a good consolation meal, though.

Monday morning I'll bake brownies for his birthday treat for his class. I very slyly suggested this as his treat because I really didn't want to mess around with cupcakes and frosting. He was very happy to bring brownies and they are way easier than cupcakes. And then, of course, I'll bake the pizza.

Tuesday I'll make a batch of Rice Krispie Treats that will go along with the valentines Jack is bringing to school on Wednesday.  He doesn't have school on Thursdays, so his class is having their party the day before.

I had the brilliant idea of making Rice Krispie Treats and then having the boys make valentines that say "Being your friend is a real treat." So clever, right? Yeah, and I'm sure there are like a dozen tutorials for just this thing on Pinterest, but I 'm not on Pinterest and actually thought of it my ownself. I even bought a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make the Rice Krispie Treats all festive. The boys thought this was a great idea when I suggested it.

Of course, that means I have to make Rice Krispie Treats in addition to all the other stuff. Should've kept my clever mouth shut and just bought some Hershey's Kisses or something.


Wednesday morning I'll make the brownies that will be Jack's treat for his class party--again with that festive heart-shaped cookie cutter. Wednesday night I'll make more Rice Krispie Treats for Cubby and Charlie to bring with the valentines for their classmates on Thursday.

Thursday morning I'll make cheesy biscuits for Cubby and Charlie's class party, in an attempt to provide something other than straight sugar to the hyped-up children.

And on Friday? Friday I will wash my apron and hang it up for the foreseeable future, because DAMN, that's a lot of baking. I'm going to be going through a LOT of butter in the next week.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday Food: Return of the Squash


Short version: Sirloin steaks, rice, green salad, steamed sweet potato

Long version: I very rarely cook sweet potatoes in the microwave; I much prefer the texture and taste when they're pan-fried or roasted. However, I spent almost all day outside digging in cold frames for the lettuce, cleaning out coolers, picking up pieces of glass, and various other necessary but tiring tasks. Thus, when 5 p.m. sneaked up on me and I had a hungry, crying baby clutching at my knees, I took the easy way out and nuked that sweet potato.

This is when I discovered that Poppy really likes microwaved sweet potato. She's never been all that enthusiastic about my roasted or pan-fried ones, but she was all about that microwaved one. She ate about half of it while I was making dinner.

She also gnawed a steak bone almost clean and ate about half a cup of rice during dinner, so I guess she was just really hungry.


Short version: Pork, mashed potatoes, sauteed cauliflower with garlic, green peas

Long version: Another package of pork loin chops, another opportunity to be completely repetitive. As always, I just chunked the pork up and fried it in bacon grease with a lot of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and the MiL's paprika. I used up the last of that really good paprika this time, though, so maybe next time I'll have to make something different.

Have I mentioned that I never cut up cauliflower before it's cooked? I find it much easier to just cut off the stalk and leaves around the bottom and steam the whole head stem side down in a big pot. It gets less waterlogged this way, as what remains of the stem keeps it out of the water. Also, then you don't have those annoying little bits that always fall off when you're cutting off the florets.

Anyway, once it's almost all the way done, I take the whole thing out and then cut it into chunks. I usually saute it in olive oil with garlic at this point, although sometimes I saute it in coconut oil with curry powder. I wanted curried cauliflower this time, but I thought it would taste weird with the paprika pork.

In any case, it's always good, especially if you don't stir it too much and let the cauliflower get a little brown in the olive oil. Just add the garlic after the cauliflower is pretty much done in the oil, otherwise the garlic will burn and get bitter.

And speaking of mashed potatoes . . . When I was little, my dad referred to the conk-out-anywhere tiredness of children as "falling asleep in the mashed potatoes." As in, "Kristin is so tired she looks like she's about to fall asleep in the mashed potatoes."

Jack fell asleep in the mashed potatoes right on the living room steps. So of course I took a picture.


Short version: Italian cube steak, pasta, roasted bell peppers and onions, steamed broccoli, chocolate coconut-flour cookies

Long version: "Italian"=I have tomatoes to use up. I had a can of tomatoes left after using the juice in the soup earlier in the week, so I made a sauce with mashed tomatoes, garlic, Vermouth, basil, and oregano, and baked the browned cube steaks in that. While that was in the oven, I also put in a pan of peppers and onions to roast.

The broccoli was a bag of prepared florets. It was the only kind at the grocery store. I had deep reservations about buying cut-up florets in a sealed bag, but they actually weren't that bad. I disapprove on principal, however, of buying things in plastic bags in general, and only having broccoli florets in particular. I like the stems. How come it's so hard to get the stems anymore?


I do approve of the cookies I made for our traditional homemade Sunday dessert. I used this recipe again, but didn't have any chocolate chips and so added about 1.5 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Also, I used maple syrup instead of honey. They were really good. For coconut flour cookies, that is. The texture is always going to be different than regular cookies, but they still tasted good. I actually liked them better with the cocoa powder instead of chocolate chips.

You may notice this is not a Superbowl sort of meal. That's because A. and I are so profoundly disinterested in football that I didn't even know it was Superbowl Sunday until we went to visit Miss Amelia and she had it on at her house. Her daughter told me who was playing, but I forgot already and I don't actually know who won.

We do have a real football, though. Charlie got it in the Christmas gift exchange at school. So maybe the kids will develop an interest on their own. Then they can play on the six-man football team that is occasionally scraped together with the school in the next village over. Some years. If there are enough players.

And if this one decides to play, they'll have to call it six-person football, thank you very much.


Short version: Rabbit and chicken with cream gravy, sourdough biscuits, frozen green beans

Long version: The rabbit was one that A. shot in the morning when he saw it near the lettuce beds. Wrong place, wrong time, rabbit. I browned it in butter and olive oil, along with a package of chicken thighs, then put the meat in the oven to finish cooking. In the skillet the meat was browned in, I added four cloves of crushed garlic and a half-pint jar of milk shaken with cornstarch to make the gravy.

I made the biscuits because in the morning I was at the point in bread-making where I take starter out for the next batch, so I figured I might as well take out a little more starter and make some sourdough biscuits. All my butter was frozen, so instead of cutting it in, I just grated it and stirred it in. Either way, it's a pain to incorporate butter.

I decided what our insane school mornings were missing is me trying to grate butter, measure yogurt and milk, and stir together both bread dough and biscuit dough while yelling at Cubby and Charlie to stop shooting their sister with Tinker Toy guns and get their shoes on so they don't miss the bus. So fun.

Those biscuits sure are good, though.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, chicken soup

Long version: I had two chicken thighs left--from which I stripped off a surprisingly large quantity of meat--plus about a cup of gravy. I used these to make soup by adding onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, frozen peas, some venison stock from the freezer, and a bit of thyme. The soup wouldn't have been enough on its own. Thus, cheeseburgers.


Short version: Pot roast, rice, frozen peas

Long version: Long, long ago, in the ancient days before we had children, A. and I took a trip to Corning, New York. There you can visit the Corning Museum of Glass, which we did, and also buy a really, really big stainless-steel saute pan, which I did. I don't remember if this is something I got at a museum-affiliated kitchen store or what, but I think of this trip every time I use this pan because every time, I kick myself for not getting the matching lid.

That's a lot of kicking, because I use this big, straight-sided pan anytime I want to cook something acidic that would be bad for my cast iron skillets. Like this pot roast, which I cooked in tomato juice and which I had to cover with the cast iron lid from my really big cast-iron skillet.

The cast-iron lid fits, but I wish I had a glass or aluminum one. I've been wishing this for, what, 12 years now? Let this be a lesson to you, children: Always buy the matching lid. And perhaps the lesson to me is that I can probably just go on Amazon and get a matching lid for like ten bucks and not get mad at myself every time I make pot roast. Would that qualify as "self-care"?


Short version: It's a Skillet Special! Plus pinto beans and the return of the squash.

Long version: Diced leftover pot roast, sauteed onions, mashed canned tomatoes, leftover rice, cumin, chile powder, grated cheddar cheese. There's dinner.

I used some of the liquid from the pot roast in the beans, and that was it besides salt and water. I didn't over-salt them this time. Yay me.

And yes, this was The Squash. The squash I spent a whole week trying to finish before finally giving up and freezing a quart-bag full. There had been enough of an absence for my fondness for squash to return.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

The first time I saw this house and property, I cried.

It wasn't the hideous paneling that reduced me to tears, or the mustard-yellow plastic kitchen counters and avocado-green plastic bathtubs original to the 1970s single-wide trailer. No, bad as those things were (and, in the latter case, still are), it was the glass and metal littering the ground that did it.

The entire back pasture--an area that encompasses approximately half an acre of bare dirt--glittered with broken glass and bristled with old nails.

Meticulous landscaping was not one of Dale's interests.

I walked around this junkyard while Dale showed me the old pig pens and chicken coop, and as I went back to the car to buckle the children in, I literally had tears in my eyes. This was where I was going to raise my children? This junked property that resembled a miniature war-torn city was where my crawling baby would play outside?

And so, I cried. Just a little.

Even at the time, I realized this was ridiculously dramatic*. It was just glass and metal. Nothing a little work couldn't fix.

Or, as it turned out, a lot of work. A lot of stooped, tedious, drawn-out work.

A. conceived of a very clever method for getting up most of the metal. He attached a big roller magnet to a long-handled metal rake. This way, he can rake the dirt, and the nails and so on stick to the magnet. This is still a lot of work, but at least he has a tool to help him.

Perhaps he can launch a line of tools under the Woodchuck Man brand name.

The bits of broken glass, however? There's no tool for that. Nothing for it but to pick each piece up individually. And so, I have.

Thankfully, this is something I can do while the children play outside. Especially now that Poppy is big enough to walk around and mostly entertain herself outside.

Where "entertainment"=climbing up on a cinder block and falling off over and over again. It's like woodchuck step aerobics.

There's a box that stays in the back pasture that I am steadily filling with pieces of glass.

There have been other boxes with glass in them that have already gone to the dump, but this is the most recent.

Yesterday I found a disposable coffee cup blowing around and within 10 minutes had filled it with the junk under the clothesline, so it's not just the pasture that needs some work.

A. has big plans for an orchard and vineyard in that pasture, which would certainly be an improvement over the bare dirt, but first we have to get rid of all the glass and nails. A. sourly remarked that it would have been a lot more fun to be here when all those bottles of beer were being drunk and used for target practice. True. But he's raked almost all of the pasture, and I've picked up most of the glass, so we're getting there.

And I don't feel like crying anymore when I see the back pasture, so big improvements all around. 

* It had been a very long day with the children because A. had been gone all day, so I wasn't at my strongest mentally or emotionally anyway.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The State of the Lettuce

I know you were all consumed with curiosity about how the lettuce is doing. No? Well, you're about to find out anyway.

The lettuce is going to take over the world. As always, I planted too many seeds. In my defense, however, lettuce seeds are tiny and it's almost impossible to drop them singly in an evenly spaced manner.

That said, I think about 100 lettuce plants may be excessive. A., however, won't let me discard a single one of the infant lettuces, and so he's been busily building sunken cold frames for them to be transplanted into.

Using scrap wood and old windows and doors left behind by previous owners in the shed. Our motto: Have junk, will farm.

I used the very first one he made last week to plant out the lettuces still remaining in their original seeding container--the very fancy disposable roasting pan with holes punched in the bottom. They were getting too big for it and I didn't have any more pots.

I am very mean to seedlings. I didn't harden them off or anything, I just filled the cold frame bed with soil and composted manure and planted them right in there. They were a little shocked at being so abruptly cut off from their tropical indoor paradise, but they survived.

Sorry, lettuces. I got no time for plant coddling.

We had several very warm days, and even some nights when it didn't freeze, but it's going to get very cold again so I'm leaving the rest of the potted seedlings inside for now.

In their very classy busted laundry basket.

Those grow lights, incidentally, are the hated fluorescent lights I banished from my kitchen. They hang perfectly across the sides of the laundry basket, though, so the basket doesn't need to be under a window. Thanks for leaving us your crappy lights, Dale! And your crappy windows and doors and old particle board.

Junk-Farmer Salad, here I come.