Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
We're gonna keep this one short and to the point: When you are left with a part of a raw onion after using whatever you need for whatever recipe you're making, just go ahead and slice up the rest of the onion and cook it.
It seems like a pain to get out another pan, I know, but it is always worth it. Because then you don't have part of a raw onion smelling up the refrigerator, and you have cooked onion ready to go for anything.
Would I, for example, cut part of an onion off for the small amount I might need for sauteed green beans? No. But I will use some of that already-cooked onion, and the green beans will taste a lot better with that addition.
So cook those partial onions and thank yourself later.
Sunday, December 27, 2020
Today I turn 41 years old.
That's all. Let's move right on to the snapshots, shall we?
A. was so impressed by this van he saw at a gas station that he took a picture of it. He said there were some dudes living out of it. I'm sure there's a story there, but I'm also sure I don't want to know it.
And A. hiding in the corner, trying to drink some coffee before he had to engage with anyone. It was 5 a.m.
Not a single picture of the animals this week. I must remedy that this week.
Friday, December 25, 2020
Wouldn't want to break my (stupidly) long streak of Friday Food posts, would I now? Of course not. Plus, I actually write it throughout the week and finish it Thursday night for a scheduled post in the morning, so it's not as if I got up at four on Christmas morning to write this ridiculously long post.
Just a little behind the scenes tidbit for you.
Here we go!
Short version: Pork stir-fry, rice, chocolate pudding with whipped cream
Long version: Jack's birthday request. I made the stir-fry with the rest of the pork I had made the day before, plus a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables (hoarded for this very day), some extra frozen green beans, onions, and carrots.
Jack also requested the chocolate pudding. I only had enough chocolate chips to make one recipe of it. I usually double that recipe, but we also had brownies on hand left from the class Christmas parties the day before, as well as more of A.'s birthday pumpkin custard, so I figured we wouldn't have any lack of desserts.
Sadly, this means no ugly cake photos. I know you're disappointed.
Short version: Roasted pheasant and rabbit, rice, salad with vinaigrette
Long version: The pheasant was wild; the rabbit was tame.
A. shot the pheasant when he went hunting with Cubby the weekend before. A. hung it to age a bit, and it was so cold, it actually partially froze. So it hung for five days. The rabbit was one of the bucks from the casita. This is the first time I've ever prepared a domestic meat rabbit--as compared to a wild cottontail--and it was really quite a bit bigger. Milder in flavor, too.
Both of these are very lean meats, so I covered them all over with bacon before roasting them, removing the bacon after about twenty minutes and seasoning the meat with salt, pepper, and thyme. I made a little sauce with the pan juices, a bit of some fancy apple brandy from Santa Fe my sister sent us for Christmas, and cold butter.
They came out fine, although somewhat tough. A. was very enthused about the pheasant. He stood over the pan after dinner, picking meat off the carcass, and very solemnly told me, "I regret to inform you that I am passionately pleased by wild pheasant."
Regretful indeed, given that this is only the second time in our entire lives that he's shot a pheasant.
His success and enjoyment of the pheasant inspired him to go quail hunting on this day, though, on some public land just a few miles from our house. We all went along for the adventure.
Short version: Rabbit and pheasant soup, cheese, ice cream with caramel sauce or maple syrup
Long version: There was quite a bit of meat left on the carcasses of the rabbit and pheasant, and the easiest way to get it off is to boil the carcasses for awhile. This has the happy result of also making very nice stock.
I used the stock to make soup with the meat I pulled off the bones, a couple of pieces of bacon, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, green beans, and rice. It was very good.
We finished up the caramel sauce with this Sunday dessert. There was just enough for A. and me to have it with our ice cream. The children chose maple syrup when given a choice, so it all worked out.
Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, curried split peas, rice, fruit mix
Long version: I usually make the curried split peas when I make the sausage because the two members of our family that do not eat legumes do very much like sausage. And the two that don't like the sausage love the curried split peas. It works out well.
The fruit mix was one of three GIANT cans I was given by the cook at the school when she was clearing out the kitchen before Thanksgiving. Each can is 6.8 pounds of peaches, pears, and grapes in an extra-light syrup. It was kind of bland, so I added a bit of maple syrup and cinnamon to it for the children. Only Jack and Poppy finished theirs, though.
I froze the rest of the can (in bags, not in the can) for use in smoothies this summer. Given that I have two more of those huge cans, I guess we're going to be all set when it gets hot.
Short version: Pork roast, roasted potatoes, sauerkraut and onions, carrot sticks with curry dip
Long version: This was the last of the smaller pork roasts my mom brought us in October. I just roasted it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and thyme until it was done. Under the roast was a jar of my rinsed sauerkraut and the remainder of an onion that I sliced up because it was starting to go bad.
Welcome to My Very Real Kitchen.
The carrot sticks were courtesy of Miss Amelia and her commodities delivery. She couldn't eat it all, so she asked A. to come and pick up the extra food. That included the biggest carrot I may have ever seen.
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Actually, I think my particular children probably have visions of the mail lady's bizcochitos dancing in their heads.
Regardless of the confection giving them sweet dreams, however, they are indeed nestled all snug in their beds. And this awaits them in the morning:
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
I cook with a lot of garlic. Like, a LOT of garlic. This, of course, has everything to do with El Rey de Ajo and his (possibly excessive) garlic plantings.
Not that A. would ever think any quantity of garlic is excessive.
Luckily, everyone in this house likes garlic.
I do a lot of chopping and pressing of garlic cloves, of course. However, with the quantity of garlic that we have on hand, I'm really dealing with many heads of garlic, rather than just individual cloves.
This is where roasting comes in.
I roast whole heads of garlic somewhat frequently, especially when I'm making Finny's sauce. That sauce involves an entire head of garlic roasted with the tomatoes, right on the same pan. The original recipe calls for cutting off the top of the head of garlic, and then wrapping the whole thing in aluminum foil for roasting. When the garlic is roasted, you then squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
This is how I always did it, because Finny told me to. And it works well.
The only issue I had--and this is really just me and my own issue, I suspect--is the aluminum foil. I dislike having to use anything only once, even if it's just a small piece of aluminum foil. Because after I bake the garlic, I have to just throw that aluminum foil away. Horrors.
I told you it was just my issue.
And then, one time this summer when I had run out of aluminum foil and really needed to roast some tomatoes to get them out of the kitchen, I decided to try doing it without the foil. Because I wasn't wrapping them in anything, I decided not to cut the tops off, figuring the intact skin would act as the wrapper.
It does. And this method works.
The cloves are somewhat drier and firmer when roasted this way, so they don't squish out of the skins like they do when the garlic is wrapped up in foil. Instead, the skin just pulls away and the cloves come out intact, which is much less messy.
Maybe this method wouldn't be the best if you want a paste for smearing on bread or something, but for dropping in a food processor to make tomato sauce, it doesn't matter. Or for eating them whole, which we definitely do.
So there you go: Roasted garlic without throwing away aluminum foil. Just doing our little part to save the Earth. And not buy more aluminum foil.
Sunday, December 20, 2020
Friday, December 18, 2020
Short version: Leftovers
Long version: I had actually taken chicken out to cook, but by the time we finished our very merry Christmas tree decorating, it was already 4 p.m. And I was tired.
Leftovers it is!
Most people had some of the leftover taco meat with corn tortillas and cheese. Cubby, who is not a big fan of that, lucked out. I had a little tuna salad left from lunch, so I added some bread crumbs and an egg to that and made him a couple of tuna patties. He was very happy.
Short version: Chicken, bacon, garlic bread or rice, home-frozen green beans
Long version: I had taken out the last packages of boneless chicken thighs my mom brought me. To cook them, I first fried a few slices of bacon, then added the cut-up chicken into the bacon grease with paprika, salt, and garlic powder. It was very tasty.
I made this meal in two rounds, because A. and Cubby got home late from pheasant hunting. A. got a pheasant.
Short verison: Loaded chicken and potato casserole, green salad with ranch dressing, ice cream with salted caramel sauce
Long version: I first saw the idea for this casserole online somewhere and thought it looked like a good idea for the rest of the boneless chicken thighs. The thighs are cut into bite-size pieces, then mixed with diced potatoes, olive oil, and spices including paprika and garlic powder, both of which I tend to use heavily on a regular basis anyway.
The original recipe also called for optional hot sauce. Instead, I used some of the MiL's paprika.
The MiL grew the paprika peppers in her garden this summer, dried them, and sent them to me to grind up. When I did that in the food processor, it damn near drove me out of the kitchen. The fine powder swirling around had me coughing non-stop. I don't know what weather conditions caused it, but I'm pretty sure these peppers had much more of the spicy along with the sweet in comparison to the peppers she sent us a couple of years ago.
So I decided to use just a bit of that spicy-sweet paprika for this, along with regular sweet paprika. I could definitely taste a bit of heat, but it was delicious.
The casserole is called "loaded" because it's topped with bacon and cheese at the end of baking. It was, as you might imagine, very tasty, though very heavy.
Also tasty was the salted caramel sauce for the ice cream. Also as you might imagine. I've never made it before, and I used this recipe. It wasn't difficult, although working with caramelizing sugar is kind of annoying. Mostly because it hardens into rock as soon as it cools on spoons or whatever.
Worth it, though.
And hey! Guess what was in that salad? Tomatoes from the garden, still hanging out on top of the microwave.
Short version: Brisket tacos, rice, carrot sticks with ranch dressing
Long version: I put the brisket in the oven overnight on Sunday, and then just stuck it in the refrigerator before I went to work in the morning. When I got home and sliced it, it ended up being not quite enough meat for everyone. That's why I used it for tacos for most of us. I had some pinto beans in the refrigerator, which is an excellent way to stretch meat.
Charlie and A. don't eat beans, but the rest of us did, and it ended up being just enough meat that way.
Should I start a Thrifty Housewife Hacks blog? Nah. Bet it's already been done.
Short version: Lamb tenderloin, rice, roasted tomatoes and garlic, caramelized onion, green salad with ranch dressing, pumpkin custard with whipped cream and caramel sauce
Long version: This was A.'s birthday, and all he asked for was lamb. Good thing he butchered his own last month. All I had to do was cook it.
I had saved some red wine the last time A. got a box, so I marinated the lamb in that, olive oil, garlic powder and salt, then seared it, sliced it, and put it back in the pan with the rest of the marinade as a sauce.
The tomatoes were just a can of tomatoes that had been languishing in the refrigerator. I stuck them in the oven with a whole head of garlic while I was baking the custard.
And about that custard . . .
Remember I had a LOT of pumpkin pie filling left after our Thanksgiving adventure in pie making? Well, A. said he would just like to have that without the pie crust, instead of a cake. So easy!
Or rather, it would have been, if I coud EVER read and follow a dang recipe correctly.
I won't go into all the details, but it was a classic Kristin Recipe Experience that involved way more eggs and milk than I should have had (and not enough cream, because I was almost out) and then adjusting spices on the fly and . . . well. It was stupid. And I ended up with a crazy quantity of this stuff.
And THEN, I didn't bake it long enough. Even though it was in the oven for almost an hour and a half, the centers were still definitely liquid. So I scooped out around the edges of those where it was more solid. I served it with whipped cream and drizzled over the caramel sauce, and it was actually delicious, but I was still mad about the whole thing.
Incidentally, later in the week I combined the liquid centers of all those containers and re-baked it all. For TWO HOURS. And THEN it was done. Geez.
Short version: Bacon, scrambled eggs, leftover lamb, leftover rice, home-frozen green beans
Long version: Workday and a random assortment of leftovers and quick-to-cook-foods so I could bake brownies after dinner for Cubby and Charlie to bring to school for their class Christmas parties the next day.
That sentence was almost as long as this day felt.
Short version: Carnitas-style pork, pasta, sauteed green beans
Long version: Last day of school before Christmas break! I spent the morning making cupcakes to bring in for Jack's class birthday treat, and the afternoon at the school helping teachers with the class parties and attending a staff meeting, so I knew I would not be into an elaborate dinner. (Am I ever?)
Thus, random chunk of pork chucked into the oven in the morning, then shredded and fried with spices at dinner formed the protein. The pasta was just, uh, pasta, with butter, cream cheese, and garlic powder. Throw some frozen green beans in with the pork and call it done. Because I certainly was.
Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
(You get two posts today, since A.'s birthday happened to fall on a Tuesday. But he got precedence over a random tip. Of course.)
On the days when her brothers are at school, Poppy and I typically go for a walk. We don't get far, because, as anyone who has tried to cover any distance with a toddler knows, the point of a walk is not to actually walk.
Last week, one of her diversions was pausing at a large, dead wild sunflower plant and pulling the seeds off. She would yank some off, throw them in the air to watch them blow away in the wind, and exclaim, "TA DA! Amazin' me!"
I was watching her do this and thinking, "If only we could all be so pleased with ourselves all the time."
Bur really, why can't we? Instead of constantly internally criticizing ourselves, why shouldn't we be internally congratulating ourselves?
I got the bathroom clean. TA DA! Amazin' me!
I got all the laundry washed, hung on the line, and put away. TA DA! Amazin' me!
I remembered to call about that bank account thing. TA DA! Amazin' me!
I mean, it's not as if there is generally a cheering crowd applauding your toilet-cleaning efforts. So go ahead! Be your own cheering section! It's really surprisingly effective in elevating your mood.
Although, I'm going to leave the audible self-congratulations to the toddlers. That might be a little weird coming from a 40-year-old.
Today, the one and only woodchuck man turns 40 years old. And that means it is time to sing his one and only song: "The Woodchuck Man Can," sung to the tune of "The Candyman Can."
(There are eight previous versions, but I'm just going to send you back to the most recent one. If you care, you can jump to all the others from that one.)
You ready? Let's go.
Who can fix an old house
Entirely on his own?
Who can butcher a bull down to skin and bones?
The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him
Who can fix a toilet
With a purple children's toy?
Who can go adventuring with a girl and three young boys?
The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him
Who can give a haircut
To make the girls look neat?
Who can save a new lamb with his own body heat?
The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him
Happy birthday to A., the man who brought new meaning to the word "woodchuck."
Sunday, December 13, 2020
Okay, this is kind of cheating for Sunday Snapshots, because I always post a lot of photos of our Christmas tree adventure. Like here. And here. But I'm gonna do it anyway. Because it's my blog, and I can.
Finding our Christmas tree always involves a dirt road. This year it also involved a faint track going through rangeland.
Friday, December 11, 2020
Short version: Cracklin' skillet, green peas, pureed squash
Long version: While I was digging in the non-meat chest freezer for something else, I uncovered one of the packages of beef fat that's been languishing in the bottom of the freezer since we bought the whole cow two years ago.
I thought maybe it was time to pull that out and render it. Two years should be long enough for aging. Ahem.
Pork fat makes cracklin's when it's rendered, which are a lot different than what I ended up with after rendering the beef fat. This fat had been ground for me by the processing place, and what remained after rendering was essentially ground beef with a LOT of fat.
So I served it for dinner. I mean, I couldn't just THROW IT AWAY, could I? Perish the thought.
All I did was add in some cooked onions I had in the refrigerator, salsa, garlic powder, chili powder, rice, and cheese.
I did not tell the children exactly what they were eating. Charlie took a few bites and said, "For some reason, this tastes like cracklin's."
"Yeah," said Cubby. "I didn't want to mention it, but it does."
Jack said, "Why does it smell like fat?"
Possibly because it's approximately 40% beef tallow?
They all ate it, and both Charlie and Poppy had seconds. Okay.
Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, roasted potatoes, fried onions, green salad with ranch dressing
Long version: Nah. I have a picture, though!
Short version: Leftover shepherd's pie, fried leftover pork and potatoes, calabaza
Long version: There wasn't quite enough shepherd's pie for everyone, so A. and I had the leftover pork fried in butter with paprika and garlic powder, plus potatoes.
A. chopped up the gigantic calabaza on Sunday morning before church. It was . . . alarming.
Short version: Ground beef tacos
Long version: I knew that extra-large pot of taco meat I made and froze last week would come in handy on work nights.
Short version: Hot dogs
Long version: There was a school thing at which hot dogs were provided. The children were pleased, and I realized that this meal marked the first time in almost exactly 11 months that I ate a dinner not prepared by me. The last time I ate anything I didn't cook was on January 9, 2020, when we used a gift certificate to the local restaurant.
That restaurant is now closed, and I cooked dinner for 336 days straight.
Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Another recipe! What is happening here? Am I turning into a recipe person?
No. But it's sort of hard to spread the gospel of the easiest, most delicious dessert in the world without giving you a recipe. That would just be cruel. And really, if you like chocolate, you need to try this.
"This" is pots de creme. It is, apparently, a very traditional French dessert. Not always chocolate in France, but always chocolate in my kitchen, which is definitely not French. And this is definitely not a traditional pots de creme recipe. I suspect a traditional French cook would not even recognize this, but it's absurdly simple and delicious, so we're running with it.
There are dozens upon dozens of recipes for chocolate pots de creme, which is sort of like a cross between a chocolate mousse and chocolate pudding. It's what I imagine the chocolate river in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory would taste like.
I had never had it nor heard of it, however, until the MiL made it many years ago, using a recipe she got from her MiL.
Her MiL--A.'s grandmother, known as Bae--had a definite dramatic flair and loved a good story. When she and her husband were in their sixties, they left Blackrock to the care of their adult children and spent a couple of winters running a hotel on the Carribean island of Bequia.
I mean, why not, right?
I have no idea where they came up with this plan, but there is no doubt that Bae got many, many stories out of the experience. Some were about eating whale meat. Some were about the sailboat--pleasantly named The Friendship Rose--that brought supplies to Bequia and was the only way to get to the "big town" on the bigger island. And one was about the pots de creme.
Bae claimed she got the recipe from the cook at the hotel. The MiL, however, tells me that the recipe actually came from Bae's copy of Joy of Cooking. It's still in the newer editions, too, although the version Bae made is now listed as a variant of the main recipe.
Apocryphal origin story aside, she did indeed make this recipe a lot on the island for the guests at the hotel. The recipe as written has exactly five ingredients: chocolate chips, milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. In a traditional pots de creme recipe*, the ingredients are combined on the stove top and then baked in a water bath, like a custard.
This recipe, however, is made in a blender (or food processor). The milk is heated very hot, them dumped in a blender with all the rest of the ingredients to be whizzed around until smooth. The hot milk melts the chocolate chips and cooks the egg. The resulting liquid is refrigerated until it's chilled and is solidified a bit. This method is much more to my taste than messing around with a pot on the stove and a water bath in the oven.
Given the problem of supplies on Bequia, I asked A. how his grandmother got milk. He said they used evaporated milk, powdered milk, and shelf-stable milk in cartons.
I've always made this recipe with whole milk, but I was intrigued by this. What if I could make it with evaporated milk? If I could, then it could be made with almost all pantry ingredients. (The exception being the eggs.)
So I tried it with one of the cans of evaporated milk I keep in the pantry. I always double the original recipe for our larger family, so I was delighted to find that a regular can of evaporated milk is exactly 1.5 cups. Which is exactly the amount needed for a double recipe.
We had the evaporated-milk pots de creme Sunday night, and I could not tell a difference in taste or texture from the whole milk version. If anything, it was a little thicker, since, of course, evaporated milk is thicker than whole milk.
A. thought he could detect a slight difference in mouth feel and taste, but he enthusiastically endorses both versions. As do the children.
So I think you can pretty much use any sort of milk you have on hand. Most recipes online call for cream, too, which I have never tried in this. The versions with cream might be better, but I assure you that you can make this with any kind of milk, and it will be delicious.
Well, maybe not skim milk. That might be too thin. But you can definitely make it with evaporated milk, which pleases me greatly.
So if you bought evaporated milk this spring when the world went crazy and we all went along with it, but now you don't know what to do with that can? Now you know. Make this. You won't be sorry.
Pandemic Pots de Creme (makes enough for six generous servings)
1.5 cups milk or evaporated milk
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, dark, or milk, depending on how sweet you like things)
3-4 tablespoons sugar (adjust depending on your preferences and the sweetness of your chocolate)
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat the milk until bubbly on the edges, either in the microwave or a pan on the stove. It will probably get a skin on the top. That's okay.
Put all the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend for about ten seconds, just to break the chocolate chips up a bit. This makes it easier for them to get totally melted in the next step.
Pour the hot milk in all at once and blend until smooth, leaving the round stopper piece off the top of your blender or food processor and covering the top opening with a dish towel. This is an important safety step whenever you're blending any hot liquid.
Pour the mixture into small bowls or ramekins, then refrigerate at least two hours, until thoroughly chilled.
Serve with cream on top. You can use one of those cans of whipped cream, I guess, if you're sticking to pantry items here. Or you can really go for broke and do like us: Just pour some cream directly on top to make a lake of cream over the chocolate. You get more cream this way, without all that air from whipping to get in the way.
This must be the least-fancy recipe ever when it comes to ingredients and method, but it yields a very fancy-looking dessert. Even if you don't have cute little ramekins to serve it in. Or even matching bowls.
Sunday, December 6, 2020
Way back in the day when I started writing here (waaaaay back--almost 13 years now), I used to post every day. I could do that because I didn't have a full-time job or any children yet. Then things happened and I gave up on that.
But I sort of miss it. When I was writing every day, there was more variety in what I was writing about. Right now, it's pretty much food and kids, all the time. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, that really is the majority of my life.
But there are other things around! Things like dogs.
Friday, December 4, 2020
Short version: National Leftover Day!
Long version: Okay, so it's not officially National Leftover Day*, but I bet a large percentage of Americans have leftovers for dinner the day after Thanksgiving. We did, too, although really, any day is likely to be Leftover Day at our house.
I made turkey slop, which is just leftover shredded turkey and gravy heated up on the stove. It's very important to heat it on the stove. That tastes much better than heating leftover poultry in the microwave.
Anyway again. Here's the breakdown by family member.
A. had some of the turkey slop on leftover mashed potatoes, with some of the leftover green beans.
Poppy and Jack had the turkey slop with leftover stuffing, and some leftover broccoli which was not from Thanksgiving but needed to get out of the refrigerator.
Charlie had plain cold turkey dipped in leftover ranch dressing (he doesn't like gravy, so no slop for him) and leftover mashed potatoes and broccoli.
Cubby, who came down with Charlie's cold and had a terrible sore throat, had the last bowl of some turkey/rice soup I had made for lunch. That was made from the turkey-carcass broth, leftover turkey, some of the leftover green beans and bacon, leftover rice, onion, carrot, and lots of garlic. I think the bacon in the green beans really made the soup a lot better. Unsurprisingly. Also the tiny bit of cider vinegar I put in at the end helped a lot with the flavor.
I had a salad with the bit of leftover salad from the Thanksgiving dinner, the rest of the leftover green beans, tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, and salami. I could have put leftover turkey in there, but, well, I don't like leftover turkey. That's one reason I don't like cooking a turkey: There are always a LOT of leftovers, and then I have to get very creative to disguise that leftover turkey taste.
And here's a leftover photo for you:
* Though it occurs to me that it might be. There seem to be an inexhaustible number of "Days" now, most of them commemorating something very lame.
** I don't know when some cake recipes started being labeled "snacking" cakes, but I find it quite annoying. Does calling it that make it seem healthier? Does it make people more likely to make it because they don't feel as guilty about making a cake? It's a cake. And cakes are a dessert. If you choose to eat dessert in the middle of the day--which we definitely did with this cake--that's cool. But let's call a spade a spade and a cake a cake.
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
A few months ago, I happened to notice that after the toilet in my bathroom was flushed, the water in the tank continued to run. Usually when that happens, it's because the handle--and therefore, the chain in the toilet that connects the handle to the stopper--gets stuck down, which means the tank continues to drain the water that is refilling the tank.
Not this time, though. This time, the float in the tank was completely missing, which meant that the water wasn't getting the signal to stop filling and the tank started to overflow.
I was very thankful that I happened to still be in the bathroom to notice the water coming out of the tank so that I could turn the valve at the base of the toilet and prevent a disastrous flooding situation.
A. diagnosed the lack of float. He thinks it just broke off and went down the pipe. In a normal place, one would just go to the hardware store and buy a new toilet float.
We don't live in a normal place, however. Driving 60 miles for a toilet float is daunting. But in such cases, ingenuity saves the day.
In this case, A. asked me if we had any balloons around. Sure, I said. What color do you want?
Fortuitously, my parents had just been for a visit and my mom had brought my kids two bags of balloons. So we had many color options.
A. didn't have a color preference, so I chose a purple balloon for him. He blew it up slightly, tied it, and attached it to the rod in the toilet to buy us some time to get a new float next time we were in a place with a hardware store.
And there the purple balloon has been. For three months. We keep forgetting to get a new float, because it just keeps working.
So! Two tips for today. One is general: It's not a bad idea to pretend you live too far from stores to buy something to fix problems. It's often possible to fix your problem without spending any money at all.
And the second tip is specific: If your toilet float breaks, you can use a purple balloon in its place.
Sunday, November 29, 2020
I've done it again. I've cleaned something so neglected and disgusting in my kitchen that I feel the need to announce it to the Internet at large.
Last time I did this, it was the high edges of my kitchen cabinets that I had spent a lot of time cleaning*. Then I shared my subsequent pride in this (admittedly minor) accomplishment with all of you. And then you all told me the unappreciated but satisfying tasks you had accomplished yourselves so that we could all indulge in some mutual appreciation.
It was nice. Let's do that again.
So! This time it was the top of my refrigerator. I, um, do not remember the last time I really cleaned this. I store some things up there--the extra-large bags of store-brand cereal we buy, the large economy box of oatmeal, the extra-long roll of aluminum foil that doesn't fit in a drawer--so cleaning it requires first clearing it off.
Also, I'm five feet, five inches tall, so I don't actually see the top of my refrigerator unless I climb up on a chair to retrieve something.
A., however, who is over six feet, can see it. And did see it when he was looking for something up there. Even A., who is possibly the least fussy man on the planet when it comes to house cleaning, said he was a little shocked.
Yeah. It was gross. It was that special combination of grease and dust that builds up in kitchens--or at least, in my kitchen--with the added complication of the textured surface of this refrigerator that traps all this stuff and requires serious scrubbing to get clean.
Nothing for it but to get scrubbing, however. So I got some very soapy water in the sink, my old nylon scrubby thing that I keep for just such disgusting jobs, and got to it.
It was probably only about 15 minutes of actual scrubbing, but it was HARD scrubbing. My hands were cramping by the time I was done.
But it's done now! And I took a picture for you:
I did not take a "before" picture, because this is supposed to be self-congratulations, not self-castigation about its original filthy state.
So tell me! What have you done lately that I can applaud you for?
* Okay, so it was only 45 minutes, but that's about 40 minutes longer than I want to be climbing up and down and scrubbing grease and dirt.
Friday, November 27, 2020
Short version: Chicken-fried bull, boiled potato chunks, frozen peas
Long version: I took out a bag of bull steaks, and decided to try pounding them to tenderize them. As I was getting out the very heavy rolling pin for the pounding, Cubby wandered through the kitchen and asked me if I was making chicken-fried steak.
I wasn't, but then I did.
All I did after pounding the meat was dredge it in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, and fry it in bacon grease. I made a gravy, too, with some of the leftover flour, but I added too much flour so it was pretty gluey.
Cubby was still happy, though, and the steaks were tender enough to eat after their pounding.
Short version: Bull and potato skillet, green salad with ranch dressing
Long version: In this episode of tenderizing the bull, I spent a tediously long time--okay, maybe ten minutes--cutting the remaining steaks up into very small pieces. Basically like a dice.
Then I browned that and simmered it for several hours with some diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, and paprika. I added the leftover boiled potatoes and a bit of cheese on top, and it was actually really good. The bull meat actually got tender this way. Hooray.
Short version: Bull tacos, strawberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream
Long version: I didn't need all the bull meat for the potato skillet, so I saved some for this meal. Which consisted solely of the meat and some cheese in store-bought tortillas. And nary a vegetable to be seen.
There was fruit in the dessert, though!
Cubby had been wanting to make a cobbler ever since he had a blueberry cobbler at school a couple of weeks ago. We have big bags of frozen strawberries and peaches thanks to Sysco, so I told him we could make a cobbler with one or both of those. He chose strawberries.
I didn't follow a recipe. We microwaved the strawberries to thaw them and get rid of some of the liquid, and then added sugar, lemon juice, and a tiny bit of vanilla.
Then we made biscuits to put on top, using generally the baking powder biscuit recipe I have memorized from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but using a full stick of butter instead of 1/3 of a cup, and a tablespoon or so of sugar.
Cubby chose the cutter shape for the biscuits, and it ended up looking like Valentine's Day in November.