Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday Food: Creative Bread Things, Much Mexican, and Fun with Cast Iron


Short version: Ribeye steaks, rice, green salad, A.'s stew

Long version: The steaks were pretty small and wouldn't have been enough without the stew. Good thing we still had two big containers of it in the freezer. It's the gift that keeps on giving.


Short version: Creative flatbreads with bacon and cheese, roasted sweet potatoes/bell pepper/onion, salad

Long version: When I made pizza for my sister, I made a double recipe as usual, but only needed half of it. But I still pre-baked both half-sheet pans full of dough. Then I cut one into quarters--the only way I can fit it into a big zip-top bag--and put it in the freezer.

I would've made a regular pizza, except I didn't have any mozzarella. Or rather, asadero, which is what we use now in place of mozzarella. So instead I just put diced, cooked bacon and grated cheddar on the crust and baked that. It was good.

But then, when is anything with bacon and cheese ever NOT good?

I'm sure you've noted there was nothing even vaguely Mexican about this meal to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, contrary to my usual practice. Ah, just you wait.


Short version: Creative tuna stuff, green peas

Long version: I was baking bread--again--so I made the usual round loaf of garlic bread. But then, when I decided to make something with tuna for dinner, I had the idea of making tuna salad--tuna, diced onion and celery, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, dill, and pepper--and mixing in grated cheese and then stuffing the bread with this mixture. So I baked the bread until the center was done, then cut the top off, pulled some of the bread out of the middle, and packed the tuna mixture in there, replaced the top and baked it again until it was all melted.

When it was done, I sliced it into long sandwich fingers, and of course the filling squished out all over the place, but whatever. Everyone liked it.

I added some leftover rice to the rest of the tuna and cheese mixture and baked that in a cast-iron skillet as a kind of casserole. That was also good.

This also happened this day:

Not so good, though my fault for leaving the big package of paper towels on the floor of the dining room until I figured out where to store it.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, rice, sauteed mushrooms and onion, green beans

Long version: I always use my cast-iron griddle to cook hamburgers, as that's the only way I can cook eight at a time in one pan. The only problem with the griddle is covering the hamburgers when I add cheese, so the cheese melts. My solution to this problem is to squeeze as many cheeseburgers together as I can and cover them with an inverted cast-iron skillet.

Good thing I have such a large collection of cast-iron cookware to choose from.


Short version: Feliz Siete de Mayo! Mexican brisket, pinto beans, homemade corn tortillas. With avocado! And lime!

Long version: Okay! NOW we're ready for our Mexican feast. See, the avocados I bought on Saturday were rock-hard, so I didn't think it was worth it to make the all-out effort for Cinco de Mayo if I didn't even have ripe avocados. So I figured we would celebrate whatever day in May coincided with the ripening avocados.

Thus, Siete de Mayo was the celebratory day.

The brisket was "Mexican" because I dumped salsa verde and tomato salsa over it before I put it in the oven. Very authentic, I'm sure.

This time I made the pinto beans with nothing but salt and a potato. The potato was a small russet, and this is Miss Amelia's trick. It does indeed make the creamiest beans ever. Thank you, Miss Amelia.

And now we come to the tortillas. I have been resisting making my own tortillas for years now. I buy corn tortillas in packs of 60--yes, we eat that many corn tortillas--and I just knew that if I ever made my own I would finally know for sure how inferior the store-bought ones are. Because store food sucks, as I have mentioned before. But I already had the instant masa, so I finally decided I would try it.

I looked at a couple of YouTube videos to see what the texture of the dough should be (this one was the most helpful) and got to it. I used one and a half cups of masa and an equal amount of warm water, plus a teaspoon of salt. I had to add about a tablespoon more masa because it was too sticky, and I could have used a tad less salt, but otherwise it was fine. I kneaded the dough for a couple of minutes in the bowl and then covered the bowl with a wet cloth and let it rest for twenty minutes or so.

I do not have a tortilla press. But I do have a lot of cast-iron skillets. So I put my balls of dough between two pieces of parchment paper and bore down with the bottom of a skillet. It was kind of a pain. At least until I pressed (pun totally intended) A. into service. He has much stronger hands than I, is taller, and has more weight to press down with. He made good tortillas.

I cooked them on my cast-iron griddle pan. There is no fat in the dough and no fat on the griddle. I was certain they would stick like crazy, but they didn't. Not even a little. I did learn that the griddle has to be pretty hot--like about medium-high--for them to get the little brown flecks.

That one in the back left has the proper fleckage.

I also learned that this process will set off half the smoke detectors in the house. At the same time. Even with windows open. So annoying.

Anyway, after we started eating, A. said, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but these are great." And Cubby said, "This was SO WORTH IT."

And what did I say? "Well, I did read they freeze well. So I guess I could just do one really huge batch at once . . ."

I am so crazy.

But they really were so good. Dammit.

Of course there weren't enough and I had to share mine with Jack. But then, I sneaked a couple while I was cooking them, so I guess it all evened out.


Short version: Burritos at the school dinner theater

Long version: The school does this thing every year where the eighth grade students--this year, there are two--pick two of their older family members to interview about their lives and then create a series of highly embellished skits based on their stories. Before this, there's a dinner catered by the (singular) restaurant in the village. So we had flour tortillas with ground beef and pinto beans, plus a variety of toppings, and then both ice cream sandwiches AND cake for dessert.

The boys ate an incredible amount.

The performance was quite impressive, given that it's an entirely original script created every year and that only five students--the entire middle school--play all the parts for a two-hour performance. The problem is the "two-hour" part. It didn't even start until after 7 p.m., which meant it was over at about 9 p.m. This is too late for our early-to-bed family and waaaay too late for poor Poppy, who was up about three hours past her usual bedtime. She made it through, though, and the boys loved watching the skits. They were really funny, actually. And I did not cook or clean up a meal. Win.


Short version: Lamb, leftovers, steamed carrots

Long version: Cubby and Charlie went on their school field trip this day, which involved six hours on a bus so they could go to a trampoline park and a museum. They left at 7 a.m. and didn't get home until 6:30 p.m.

They had a wonderful time. Better them than me.


I wasn't sure if they would be eating dinner at home, so the remaining four of us ate at our usual time of 5 p.m. I made the lamb mostly for A., who ate it with leftover rice and carrots. I made tacos for Poppy and Jack with some of the leftover Mexican brisket, and a salad for myself with the same.

When Cubby and Charlie got home, they requested food and got lamb, carrot sticks, and bread and butter.

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

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Our Temporary Houseguests

Cubby and Charlie brought home some chicks from school on Monday.


Well, it wasn't a surprise to us, obviously. The chicks started out as fertilized eggs in incubators at the school, and Cubby in particular was keeping us apprised of their progress every day. I had to sign a permission form for Cubby and Charlie to bring some of the chicks home. So we knew they were coming, we just didn't know how many we would be getting.

We ended up getting four. Their names are Little Man, Little Princess, Buttercup, and one other that I can't remember. They were out in A.'s shop while the weather was warm, but as the weather took an abrupt turn to the very-not-warm yesterday, they are currently residing in the children's bathroom.

Poppy in particular was thrilled that the chicks appeared inside our very house.

They will, however, be going back in the shop as soon as it warms up again, because chicks smell. Yuck.

Our long lead time to this exciting event allowed A. to start repairing the old chicken coop at the back of our property. It's just a wood frame with sheet metal over it, and there were quite a few gaps that a hungry fox would have no trouble climbing through.

This being A., of course, he didn't just buy some more sheet metal to patch it up. Instead he decided to fix it with mud and stones. Because that is what A. does.

The nice thing about a project like this is that it doesn't require any power tools and is thus a good project for the children to help with. And they are more than happy to do so.

Do you know of any child that wouldn't enjoy sanctioned mud play?

Of course, some are more helpful than others.

But all enjoy the splashy fruits of their muddy labors.

A. began by just mixing straight dirt and water together--our dirt has enough clay that it will hold together this way after drying thoroughly--before deciding to add a small amount of Portland cement to the mixture to increase its strength and resistance to moisture. He put in an outer course of stones with space to pack in the soil mixture and will keep building in this way until he reaches the roof, I guess.

This is the first course of stones.

This is very heavy work and is going slowly, but even what they've accomplished so far has gone a long way to securing the coop. There are no predators that are going to get through a foot-thick wall of solid stone and mud.

It'll take awhile to get it all done, but in the meantime, the chicks are luxuriating in their bathroom sauna. 

Now we just cross our fingers that we didn't end up with four roosters.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sunday Family Fun

Because it's not just for Fridays anymore!

Actually, Sunday used to be our dedicated Family Fun Day, many years ago when there were only four of us, and it looks as if we might be returning to that.

Anyway, yesterday we went to . . . can you guess? Yes, another canyon!

This canyon is the one closest to our house. It's only about two miles away, and the accessible part of it is owned by one of our neighbors in the village. Obviously, we asked him if we could look around there, and he kindly said yes.

We parked at his family's old homestead--no one lives there now--off a dirt road and hiked to the canyon. It was only about half a mile to the edge of the canyon. Poppy, of course, got to ride in the pack.

Charlie said wistfully as we were loading her into it, "I sure miss riding in the pack." It's been at least four years since he's ridden in it, but I guess it really leaves a lasting impression.

Just before the canyon, the dry stream bed we were following widened out into a large flat area of stone that would be a waterfall after a really good rain. We haven't had a good rain in awhile, so at the moment it's just the stone with a few shallow pools in the depressions. And what's in those pools?

Tadpoles. Which of course must be caught.

The canyon itself was bigger and deeper than I expected. There was a pool of water at the bottom that our neighbor told us has wild grapes growing all around it in the fall. His mother used to give him and his brother a 25-pound flour sack to fill with grapes every day during the season when they got home from school. She made jelly from them, of course.

I totally want some of those grapes. Bet our neighbor would be happy to let me pick some in exchange for some jelly.

A. and Poppy did some exploring, trying to find a way down, but nothing looked very promising.

Definitely a skeptical baby.

I was there too.

With no hat or sunglasses, because I gave the former to Poppy and the latter got broken by a certain boy who will remain nameless. I was wearing sunscreen, though.

We followed the rim around for a little ways and found a good flat spot on some rocks to have our admittedly lame picnic of crackers and walnuts. From there we could see a piece of old, rusted farm machinery that turned out to be a whole collection of old, rusted farm machinery.

Rusty junk is even more fun than tadpoles.

We headed back shortly after this because it looked as if it might rain. But we'll be back. Who can resist tadpoles and rusty machines? Certainly not this crew.