Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday Food: Back in My Own Kitchen


Short version: Breakfast sausage links, rice, sauteed sugar snap peas/mushrooms/garlic

Long version: I had purchased the sausage before we left for our trip, figuring it would be a good thing to have on hand for a quick dinner if we got home late and didn't stop at a store. We didn't get home late, though, and we did stop to get eggs for the sick children, so I made the sausage this night instead.

The peas were overly mature ones from our plants. They were too starchy to be good raw, but cooked, they were very good.


Short version: Tacos, watermelon

Long version: Our forecast was calling for 100 degrees this day, so I made the taco meat in the morning while it was still relatively cool. That way, when the kitchen was 85 degrees, I just had to microwave the tortillas and cheese and add the meat and toppings.

This was A.'s seeded watermelon. We ate a lot of it.


Short version: Ribeye steaks with basil/shallot butter, boiled potatoes, cucumbers with salt and vinegar, chocolate banana ice cream

Long version: I made the butter because I had pinched off the tips of my basil to keep them from flowering and ended up with just a tablespoon or so. Not enough for much, but enough for a butter flavoring. The shallot was a last-minute addition when I ended up with half a shallot (one of ours, gratifyingly--shallots appear to grow well here) left after cutting one for my salad.

I dug up my experimental potato plant near the lettuce because it had already flowered and was looking pretty dry and sad. The harvest was not impressive.

AA battery for scale. Pathetic.

Good thing I had a ten-pound bag of store potatoes on hand.

We had the banana ice cream because A) It was Sunday and a homemade dessert is required on Sundays and B) When A. went to the store for me with a list that included bananas, he came home with fourteen bananas.

That's a lot of bananas.

I make the standard frozen bananas whirred to ice cream in a food processor, with the addition of a little cream and cocoa. I like peanut butter in it, too, but was vetoed this time.

My freezer here must freeze things at a lower temperature, because the food processor almost rocketed off the counter when I turned it on. It did eventually break down the bananas, but they looked kind of like a granita. So I added milk until it got to a creamy consistency, because no one wants to eat frozen banana sand. Well, maybe someone does, but not me.

I am always amazed that frozen bananas and cocoa can make something that is startlingly like a Frosty. Miraculous.


Short version: Pot roast, leftover potatoes, green beans, kohlrabi greens, Tim Tams

Long version: One of the things we got from Ray's delivery of his excess meat was something labeled "Pike's Peak Roast." I had no idea what this was, but the internet told me. It's for pot roasting. So I did that.

The frozen green beans and kohlrabi greens (also frozen--I harvested and froze those right before our trip) were just chucked straight into the pot with the meat and liquid. Fancy,

Okay. So Tim Tams. These are an Australian biscuit. What I would call a cookie, of course, but that's because I'm American.

My sister sent them to us--along with several other Australian treats--because she was in Australia last month for a World Strongman competition that her husband competed in.

Tim Tams have cookies in the middle and are coated with chocolate. My sister shipped these from Florida to our home in New Mexico. In July. They were a bit messy.

Just a bit.

Worth it, though.

Short version: Cube steak stir-fry with peanut sauce, rice

Long version: Still one of my favorites. It seems sad that I just discovered the wonders of peanut butter in stir-fry sauce in my 39th year on this planet.


Short version: Bacon, fried eggs, garlic bread, fried tomatoes, cucumbers with vinegar and salt, Grandma Brown's baked beans

Long version: My sourdough starter is mad at me. Per all the standard advice, I froze it while we were gone because I didn't want to bring it with me and bake at Blackrock. Everyone says it will thaw out and be right back to normal.

It didn't.

I don't know what's up with it exactly. I've never been very interested in all the technicalities of sourdough baking; I just do it with the starter A. started years and years ago and the MiL used for so many years. But now, though it seems to be rising, it has a really strong, alcohol-y smell and the bread I baked with it, while edible, did not rise while baking and has a very sour taste.

No one else minded the taste, but I hate it. So I'm continuing to work with the starter, trying to coax it back to its former self.


This was the day I baked the sour bread, along with a head of garlic. The bread was okay sliced and covered with butter and the roasted garlic and broiled. Okay, but not good.

So much boo.

The baked beans were from a giant can the MiL bought for us when we were in New York and never ate. It is a LOT of beans. I'll have to freeze some.


Short version: Pork with apricot sauce, leftover rice, steamed carrots, frozen green beans, baked beans

Long version: When I called our chicken-sitter--Jack's preschool teacher--to see when we should come pick up our chickens, she mentioned she was elbow-deep in apricots from her brother's apricot tree. She had picked 92 pounds of apricots from his tree.

We have an apricot tree, too. We are ten miles from her brother's house, and we have harvested exactly eight apricots. I think we lost a lot of our fruit to high winds that weren't such a problem at her brother's house in the village, where it's more protected by buildings.

When I expressed my delight (and jealousy) at her great good fortune, she said there was actually a second round of apricots on her brother's tree that were getting ripe and told us we were welcome to go pick some.

So we did.

I love apricots so much.

Since there was a box of apricots sitting on the woodstove, I used them in the pork I was slow cooking. I did it in the morning, as it was going to be close to 90 degrees in the afternoon. All I did was lay out the country-style pork ribs in a big Pyrex dish and cover them with salt, balsamic vinegar, mustard, a drizzle of maple syrup, and about six pulled-apart apricots. Then I covered the dish and baked it at 350 for a few hours. When the pork was tender I poured off the sauce and put both parts in the refrigerator.

At dinnertime, I took the fat off the sauce, reduced it, added some chicken stock, pulled the pork into pieces, fried it in bacon fat to get it brown, and then added the sauce. It was really good, though it needed more sauce.

Today is A. and my's wedding anniversary. Sixteen years of marriage, and there will be no fancy dinner. Why? Because A) We have four little kids, and B) The nearest fancy restaurant is like 150 miles away. But who needs wine and candlelight when you have hamburgers and pasta with pesto from homegrown basil?

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Lucky Morning

Mornings are still a crapshoot around here. I understand that there will come a time--generally known as "adolescence"--when my children will want to sleep late and I will have to drag them out of bed.

That time has not yet arrived.

The prime offender of morning wakings is, of course, the youngest. Poppy will wake up anywhere between 4:40 a.m. (yesterday) and 6 a.m. (on lucky mornings). Yesterday's early waking was negated by me going into her room and rubbing her back until she went back to sleep for a little while, because NO ONE is happy when a child is up at 4:40 a.m. Especially the child.

I never go back to sleep after getting woken up, though, so that was it for me.

The second act is always Charlie or Jack. They can get up anytime between 5:30 a.m. (yesterday) and 7 a.m.

I just never know what will happen in the mornings, and I really don't need that kind of excitement in my life. I won't even discuss the middle-of-the-night visits from Charlie and Jack. That's another level of annoyance.

It does make it all the more gratifying when I win the early-morning crapshoot, though.

Yesterday, due to some running around in the morning, Poppy took a very short car nap and then nothing else. This resulted in a complete meltdown from her at dinner, but also in her still sleeping and it is now 5:50 a.m.

Charlie and Jack were up until 9 p.m. discussing monsters, which resulted in me not going to sleep at 8:30 p.m. like I wanted to (thanks to that 4:40 a.m. awakening), but also resulted in them still sleeping.

I just heard the first ominous thumping from their room, and Charlie just emerged (5:54 a.m.) saying he had a weird dream. No doubt about monsters.


I drank all three of my cups of coffee* and checked all the Very Important Internet Sites (blogs and Instagram) that I look at when given the chance in the morning.

The unaccustomed quiet did result in my seeing a mouse run across the kitchen floor this morning, but I'm still calling this morning a win.

*Yes, three. See: 4:40 a.m. awakenings and night-time interruptions.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Trip Photos--In Stages

I know you were waiting for these.* Rather than dump every photo I took on our trip (and please, take a moment to read the difference between a trip and a vacation here) all at once, I'm going to split them into some loose categories.

First up: The journey east.

The kids entertained themselves pretty well in the car, actually. I never did have to use the Game Boy. Charlie was able to read--alleluia--because the roads were significantly smoother and straighter than those around our home. So he and Cubby read almost all the time. Jack pretended to read, did some drawing, and looked at the activity books with stickers.

Poppy also enjoyed the activity books.

Mostly she enjoyed decorating herself and her seat with the stickers so that whenever we got out of the van I would find a horned toad or a salamander stuck to her rear end.

The first night, we camped at Osage Hills State Park outside of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. If that town sounds familiar to you, you will enjoy this story.

So we're driving along through a pretty empty part of Oklahoma, and I see one of those big ranch signs over a dirt drive that reads "Drummond." And we were about to come to Pawhuska.


That was the Pioneer Woman's family ranch, and in Pawhuska is the Mercantile.

I don't read the Pioneer Woman's blog anymore, nor do I know much about the business she opened up in the town near her ranch, but I knew her last name and I knew where that business was. When I announced this to A., he was confused. "Okay, so a blogger lives here?" was the unimpressed reaction.

Whereupon I had to explain that Ree Drummond is more like a blogger who became a brand. Like Martha Stewart, not like me. I don't think he believed me until we drove past the Mercantile and he saw all the people going in and out. And when we saw some Pioneer Woman-branded barbecue sauce in a Meijer's grocery store in Ohio.


We didn't stop at the Mercantile. We had a campsite to get to. 

The state park was very nice. There were quite a few people in the RV portion, but in the tent sites up the hill, we were the only ones.

Girls' and boys' tents. And the trusty van, ready for the moment I make an Instagram page dedicated to its travels.

This park is one of many with infrastructure courtesy of the Civilian Conservation Corps, including a lookout tower constructed of stone that was right next to our campsite. I took the above photo on top of that, and the children LOVED playing on it.

I was slightly less enamored of their continual climbing/jumping/running up and down all that stone, envisioning a cracked head miles from an E.R., but it sure did keep them entertained.

This was definitely the nicest campsite we stayed at. There was a bathroom with showers and toilets, and no bugs. Perfect.

Onward and eastward to Mansfield, Missouri, home of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the last (many) years of her life.

You may recall that on our trip west last summer, we stopped at an LIW site in Kansas. (You probably don't, really, but we did.) Cubby is still re-reading those books over and over, so he asked if we could stop there again. I told him we could stop at a different LIW location, because our route was taking us just about thirty miles from Mansfield, which is where she lived for the last several years of her life, and where she actually wrote the books.

It was chokingly hot and humid that day, but we got our first entire family photo taken by a nice older couple.

Everyone's looking at the camera, at least, though with some of those faces, maybe it would be better if they weren't.

The site itself was just okay. It lacked the interest of the other LIW sites I've been to--which is now five--because this was not the setting of one of the books, just a place she lived after all the pioneering of her childhood was done.

Still, it was interesting and a good break from the van. A. and I were disappointed we couldn't see the other big attraction in Mansfield: Baker's Creek Seeds. But we had already stopped too long and the eastward march must go on, so we continued. (Never fear. You'll hear about Baker's Creek again.)

That night we camped in Missouri in the Mark Twain National Forest. I can't remember where we were, exactly, but our campsite was right near a small lake.

And there's Adventure Van peeking into the photo.

This campsite had fewer amenities: No running water, and plenty more bugs. There were lots of fireflies as night fell, which the children enjoyed chasing and catching. Unfortunately, there were also plenty of biting bugs at night. All of us got really itchy bug bites under our clothes, except for Poppy. She slept in her zippered footie pajamas.

Just try to find a way into these, bugs.

Despite the lack of luxuries, this campsite was more comfortable because of the carpet of pine needles that provided a soft surface for the tents. Poppy sure slept well, as you can see in the above photo.

The next day we just drove until we hit Cincinnati and a figurative wall, at which point we stayed at an unremarkable Red Roof Inn. I don't remember doing anything interesting this day. We were very focused on just getting to Blackrock at this point.

Which we did, the next day. And that is where we will leave this episode of trip photos.

To be continued . . . sometime.

* Actually, I know you weren't, but since this is basically my personal online journal and photo album, I'm gonna post 'em anyway.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Best Organic Pest Control

We got home on Thursday to find that the cabbage plants I had left in the ground after harvesting the main heads had indeed produced mini-heads, just as I was hoping. It's fun to get a secondary harvest.

Unfortunately, the cabbage plants also had an infestation of some kind of bug. There were dozens all over the plants. I didn't see big holes in the foliage, such as I would see when the dreaded cabbage moth attacked in New York, but I had to think that any kind of bug in such numbers was not a good thing.

I started by harvesting the secondary cabbage heads and throwing the plants, along with all their crawling inhabitants, far away. I also destroyed the eggs I found on the cabbage leaves.

Next, after a quick online search, I identified our pests: harlequin bugs. They're a kind of stinkbug, and although they prefer plants in the brassica family--like cabbages--they will attack plants of many kinds. They don't chew the plants, instead sucking the juices out of them so they wilt and die.

I found the next infestation on Cubby's sweet corn.

Luckily, one of the ways to get rid of the bugs is pick them off the plants and drop them into soapy water. I don't particularly relish this task myself, but you know who does? Young boys.

I told Cubby that unless we got rid of these bugs, he wouldn't be getting any corn. Then I handed him an old tomato can filled with Dawn and water, and told him to get to it.

I went out a minute later with Poppy to find him crouched by the can, watching in fascination as the bugs expired. Shortly thereafter, he ran into the house to tell Jack and Charlie that they could come watch bugs drown if they helped.

And just like that, there were four field hands picking bugs off the corn.

Well, Poppy restricted herself to pointing and shouting "Mo!" whenever she spotted another. Also useful.

About ten minutes later, they had dozens of bugs in the can and insisted I take a picture.


So now we have guaranteed daily entertainment for them, and fewer bugs to kill plants for me. Everyone wins.

Well, except for the bugs. They definitely lose.

Breaking News

A. found a watermelon with seeds.

I repeat: A. found a watermelon with seeds.

On our way home we saw some seeded watermelons in a grocery store in Ohio, but again, I was too stressed out to deal with a huge watermelon rolling around our already over-stuffed vehicle. So again, I didn't buy it. And again, I regretted it.

But then.

A. went to the grocery store in the city where he returned our U-Haul trailer (yet more junk has come west with us from Blackrock, yes), and right there in the produce section was a real watermelon from Texas.

I couldn't believe my eyes when he returned home and I saw that watermelon in the back of the van. It's pathetic how excited I was.

It was about twenty pounds. We ate 3/4 of it yesterday, and the remainder will no doubt be gone today.

Next time, he'll have to get two.