Friday, March 1, 2019

Friday Food: The Ponudo That Won't Quit


Short version: Pork chops, not-at-all-baked beans, bread and butter, green salad

Long version: I had a ton of beans left after forgetting to serve the pinto beans I made on Thursday. I thought maybe I could do something different with them by using some of the cooked beans to make baked beans. Except not actually bake them. And I didn't actually follow a recipe (as always), instead just adding in bacon, tomato juice, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, and maple syrup kind of at random.

I think I went too far in the mustard/vinegar direction, though, because they were much more tangy than regular baked beans. I loved this, but the boys weren't as enthused. They ate all their beans, but I think would have been happier with Grandma Brown's.

Then again, Grandma Brown isn't here and I am. Mom's Not-Baked Pickled Beans it is!

Random photo break:

The children eating popcorn at our newly expanded table. Poppy is in my chair, which she likes much better than her boring, safe chair with straps, because in my chair, she might fall off or crawl right up on the table. Excitement abounds.


Short version: T-Bone steaks, rice, fried cabbage and onions, frozen green beans

Long version: I am seriously considering not serving rice again until my children are old enough to eat it without half of it ending up on the floor. It is a nightmare to clean up. It sticks to the floor, you see, so it can't be swept up easily. Little bits of it always remain.

Confession: I usually just leave the rice explosion on the floor until the morning, when it's dried and can be swept up completely. Unfortunately, Jack dropped his plate in the kitchen while he was carrying it from the table to the counter, leaving rice all over the exact middle of the kitchen. Couldn't leave that without it getting smashed into the floor, so I had to sweep and get on my hands and knees with a rag to get the stuck bits.

This is when I started to consider a ban on rice.

A. had another bowl of his ponudo. And still didn't finish it. I think it multiplies in the refrigerator, like loaves and fishes. Perhaps we should refer to it as the Miraculous Ponudo.


Short version: Hamburgers, spaghetti with Marcella Hazan's Famous Sauce, green peas, coconut cookies with chocolate lentils

Long version: Well, I don't know how famous Marcella Hazan's four-ingredient sauce really is, but it's pretty famous online. I've read about it many times and finally decided to make it, largely because there is no chopping involved. All you do is simmer a can of tomatoes with a peeled onion and butter, then take the onion out and smash down the tomatoes. The fourth ingredient is salt.

Now, I've read at least one of Marcella Hazen's cookbooks. She's militant about using quality ingredients. In fact, I seem to remember in one of her recipes the instruction that if you didn't have the very best tomatoes on hand, not to even bother making the recipe. Given this, I'm pretty sure she would have chastised me severely for the liberties I took with her sauce. I used store-brand canned tomatoes, my onion was starting to go bad so I had to cut part of it away, and I used salted butter instead of unsalted.

It was still surprisingly good. It's not going to become my new favorite sauce--mostly because it doesn't have garlic in it, which doesn't seem right at all--but we enjoyed it.

I made our standard coconut-flour cookies for dessert--using honey instead of maple syrup this time--and proceeded to totally ruin the virtuous nature of these cookies by adding ersatz M&Ms.

Cubby and Charlie each brought home one of those plastic tubes topped with a plastic heart top on Valentine's Day with what I thought were M&Ms inside. So I thought I would use the M&Ms in place of chocolate chips in the cookies. But when I started to open the tubes, I noticed that they were knock-off M&Ms that for inexplicable reasons were called chocolate lentils.

Yes. Chocolate lentils. Is that supposed to be appetizing? If so, it fails miserably.

The candy wasn't particularly appetizing, either, with ingredients such as "natural waxes" and various dyes. I almost threw it away, but I knew Cubby and Charlie would be mad. So I completely ruined our virtuous cookies with luridly colored fake candy.

The original recipe states that the author used "allergen-free mini chocolate chips." I think "chocolate lentils" sounds just as virtuous, don't you? They're (not at all) lentils! Lentils are healthy! Too bad they're gross. I was the only one who thought so, though. Everyone else ate them.


Short version: Leftover hamburgers, leftover rice, ponudo for A., frozen green beans

Long version: We eat a lot of frozen peas and green beans. This is mostly because every member of the family will eat these. I could expand their palates with broccolini or bok choy, but those things aren't available around here anyway. Know what is available? Frozen green beans and peas. How convenient.

A. finished his ponudo, finally. But only the giant container in the refrigerator. There's another slightly-less giant container still in the freezer. I bet it's multiplying as we speak.


Short version: Chicken-fried steak with cream gravy, buckwheat waffles, frozen peas

Long version: I make buckwheat waffles almost every Sunday morning (buckwheat flour, melted butter and oil, eggs, a small amount of baking soda and salt, yogurt, and milk) and I always eat half a waffle straight from the waffle iron with nothing but butter while I'm cooking them. While I was doing this last time, it occurred to me I could try making a version of chicken and waffles, but with chicken-fried steak.

I ran out of rice, potatoes, and pasta this weekend, so it seemed as good a time as any to try it.

There was much confusion among the children seeing waffles on their plates at dinner. Without maple syrup. And it wasn't Sunday. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?

They liked it, though, especially when I told them they could have a waffle with syrup after they ate their dinners.

Of course, this would normally be a meal laden with wheat flour, but my version was entirely gluten-free. I coated the steak with corn flour, the waffles are made with only buckwheat flour (buckwheat, despite the name, is naturally gluten-free), and the gravy is thickened with cornstarch. Ta da! Totally gluten-free chicken-fried steak and waffles that don't taste gross.

How trendy of me.


Short version: Sirloin steaks, fried bread, pan-fried sweet potatoes, frozen green beans

Long version: I walked in the door at 5:15 p.m. with all four children. We had been at a 4-H meeting. Whee.

Steaks on the griddle pan, bread fried on the pan after the steaks came off, very small pieces of sweet potato pan-fried in olive oil, frozen green beans in the microwave, and we were eating thirty minutes after I got home.

I am still very sincerely grateful that I don't have to do this every evening after working all day. Working women feeding families, I salute you.


Short version: Pork chops with leftover cream gravy, garlic bread, green salad

Long version: Let's end with a beauty shot of the garlic bread, shall we?

Beautiful (and tasty) inside and out.

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

Wish Fulfillment by Mom

Charlie's absolute favorite books are the two collections of "Calvin and Hobbes" comics I bought for our cross-country road trip this summer. He loves Calvin and references him and his antics constantly*.

A couple of weeks ago while I was keeping Charlie company during his bath, he said, "You know, there's one way I wish I was like Calvin: He gets to have bubble baths."

Charlie isn't very demanding, and I think it didn't even occur to him to ask why he doesn't get to have bubble baths. The only time my kids have had bubble baths is at my parents' house. Because I am mean and don't feel they need to soak in anything other than water.


Charlie doesn't ask for much and he's a good kid, so I decided to get him some bubble bath. Of course, being the sort of person I am, I couldn't just go to a store and get some Mr. Bubble. I don't want any of my children soaking in a tub of chemicals, but particularly not Poppy. Her eczema is much better, but not all the way gone, so I'm still very careful of her skin. Thus, I bought the fragrance-free, organic, plant-derived stuff on Amazon.

Poppy was very confused by the bubbles. Jack was enthused.

Charlie got to have the first bath. He was getting undressed to get in when he said, "Oh! I was so excited I almost forgot to say thank you!"

You're welcome, Charlie. Just remember this the next time I serve you squash.

* Of course, Calvin is a smart-ass and I've had to have some conversations with Charlie about not wanting to hear Calvin's smart talk coming out of Charlie's mouth. A favorite Calvin quote of both Cubby and Charlie's: "We're obeying the letter of the law, not the spirit."

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Table for the Generations

Some time ago, before we even left northern New York, my dad e-mailed me to let me know that my aunt wanted to find a new home for a dining room table my grandfather had made over fifty years ago. He went on to tell me it came with eight chairs and everything was solid oak. I believe he might have  said that even my children wouldn't be able to break this table.

I think we have a reputation.

Anyway, he asked if I wanted it. Hmmm, let me think on this . . . a free, solid oak table big enough for my somewhat large family and made by my grandfather? YES, PLEEEEEASE.

Of course, we were about to move cross-country, so we weren't going to bring it to New York. The logistics of picking this thing up involved the table getting moved to a different aunt's house in Wisconsin and A. driving a bit out of his way on his cross-country moving-truck journey with Cubby to pick it up there. It added about a day to his trip, but he has never regretted it. Because this table is, indeed, solid.

The chairs are heavy and not easy to knock over, which is also a consideration with my wrecking-ball sons.* There are enough chairs for all of us, with some left over for any visitors. And it has extra leaves, so I can make the table itself even bigger.

It's pretty big even without the leaves in it, so that's the way I left it since we got it.

Big enough for the first dinner at our new house.

It was big enough, but kind of barely. I sit next to Charlie at the table. He had a tendency to get right in my space while we were eating, which drove me crazy. I mean, I love my son, but I do not want him hanging on my arm while I'm trying to eat. And I don't need anything else to make me crazy during our already admittedly crazy-making meals.

I don't know why it took me so long to just put another dang leaf on the table. But yesterday, I did. I put in two, actually, for extra room to move (and get away from Charlie). It took me about five minutes, and now I'm freeeeee.

Look at all that room between the chairs! Hooray!

I also discovered when I was pulling the table apart to slide in the leaves that Grandpa put an actual gear on the track so it would slide easily.


There's even one extra leaf if there should come a day that I decide I want even more space. Say, when I have three hulking teenage boys shoveling in food around my table. Ahem.

At the time my grandfather made this table, he himself had three hulking teenage boys, plus two daughters. I like to think he would appreciate that the table he made for them is being put to good use by one of his grandchildren and her rambunctious family.

Thanks, Grandpa. It was the perfect family table then, and it's the perfect family table now.

* Although a couple of them are already getting loose at the joints thanks to said sons dragging them across the floor to climb up to the kitchen cabinets. Sigh.

Edited to Add: I was apparently very off in my guess as to when the table was made. My dad set me straight: "Actually table was made by my Dad while he was a student at Boys Technical High School. Circa 1940. The idea was smart boys, would learn a trade, plumber, electrician etc. My Dad's trade was as a cabinet maker, at the time a high paying position. He finished high school and then started a one year extra apprenticeship at the school, part of the curriculum. Of course while he was in his last apprenticeship. WWII started, and like lot of 19 year olds he was drafted into the Army."