Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tuesday Tips: Just Cook the Onion

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.

That's all.

Unrelated Poppy photo, because why not.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Sunday Snapshots: Happy Birthday To Me! (Plus, Christmas Pictures)

 Today I turn 41 years old.

That's all. Let's move right on to the snapshots, shall we?

Scaling the walls of the sand pit down the road. Better than Disneyland. (Also, at the risk of being repetitive: Would you look at that SKY? In December! I will never get over it!)

This is what my refrigerator looked like last Monday, right before A. went to the grocery store. I decided to find the silver lining to this emptiness and take all the shelves out so I could actually take them apart and scrub everything down. This is the after picture, in case you couldn't tell.

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.

Christmas stocking excitement! (Those are socks Poppy is holding up.)

The aftermath of the present-opening storm.

Charlie immediately after opening everything.

Cubby and his haul.

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

Friday Food: Yes, Even on Christmas

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.

Daddy and the gun in the lead, of course.

Poppy eventually dropped well behind the others, so she and I pulled up a patch of buffalo grass and chilled out for awhile.

Only smiling because I directed her away from the cholla cactus pieces she was about to sit on.

It was pretty quiet out there.

Far from the madding crowd, you might say.

A. didn't get any quail, though.


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.

Pencil for scale. If you can even see it in the shadow of that enormous carrot.

The commodities vegetables are often the ones that are too large to sell commercially. This makes them highly entertaining. If you're easily entertained like I am, that is.


Short version: Pizza, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: I was baking yet another batch of bread for neighbor gifts, so I used some of the dough to make pizza with some of Finny's sauce from the freezer. One was just cheese, and on the other I put the rest of the leftover breakfast sausage, chopped up.

Also this day, please rejoice with me that I successfully canned all of the bull meat I set out to pressure can. I used the tips Karen. gave me in the comments of this post, and all of my jars sealed. Hooray! Thanks, Karen.

I had casually mentioned the day before that I was planning to can meat the next day, and A. was all, "Well, no point in waiting on your Christmas present, then," and brought out these:

A. might be the Woodchuck Man, but I think it's clear that I am the Woodchuck Woman, because I was actually really pleased to receive these.

I don't know if you can see the size on the side of the box, but those are half gallon jars. I've always wanted half gallon jars, and now I have six of them. I used four--which is the maximum number that will fit in my pressure canner--to can the bull meat, so now I have two gallons of canned meat. 

Merry Christmas to me.


Short version: Bull and potato skillet, cucumber spears with ranch dressing

Long version: And then I used some of the bull meat. Not the meat in the half gallon jars, though. For this I used one of the quart jars that actually did seal the first time I pressure canned bull meat. 

I must admit that I was very burned out on the kitchen by this point and not at all excited about cooking dinner. Especially because we went to church in the afternoon and didn't get home until 5 p.m. I had already boiled some potato chunks, so I just fried the meat from the jar with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder, then dumped in the potato chunks and called it good.

It was pretty good, actually. That pressure canned meat sure is convenient.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week? Or, what are you eating today for your holiday celebration?

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Visions of Sugarplums


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:

Christmas Eve vibes, New Mexico style.

Merry Christmas Eve, from all of us to all of you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tuesday Tip: Eco-Friendly Roasted Garlic

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.

What next year's garlic crop currently looks like. Well, what like five plants look like. There are PLENTY more than this in the ground. Of course.

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

Sunday Snapshots: Winter Vibes (and a Faucet)


I have a new faucet! It isn't broken! It moves freely! It doesn't leak! Hooray for A.!

Yeah. So much for line drying. These clothes had to dry inside, hung all over beds and chairs. As did the other small loads I did for the next week, when it rained, and snowed, and blanketed us in fog, and otherwise provided weather not at all conducive to line drying. (No, Mom, I still don't want a dryer.)

It is definitely woodstove season. Closed woodstoves are more efficient heaters, but I must admit I really enjoy watching the flames when I have the door open to start the stove in the morning.

Sunset behind the old schoolhouse down the road.

Sunset dogs.

Snow, sheep, and Samson at sunrise. (Unintentional but very pleasing alliteration.)

Friday, December 18, 2020



Happy birthday to
laid-back Jack

Friday Food: Another Ridiculous Recipe Debacle


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.

Which of course found its way to my kitchen to be admired and manhandled by two small children.


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.

Never say die, tomatoes. Until we, uh, eat you.


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.

This photo looks like a very shocked custard face. Maybe it was horrified by the hash I made of the baking?

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

Tuesday Tips: An Attitude Exercise

(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!"

The one and only amazin' Poppy.

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?

Like this:

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.

Let's Sing

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

Sunday Snapshots: The Christmas Tree Expedition

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.

Let's go!

Finding our Christmas tree always involves a dirt road. This year it also involved a faint track going through rangeland.

But . . . where are the trees?

You can just see, if you look closely, a truck ahead of us on the track. We were following a friend, who manages this ranch and gave us permission to cut a tree. He had to lead us to the trees, though, because not only were they nowhere near a paved road, they were about two miles down a dirt road, another mile on this track, and then a few hundred yard hike into a kind of draw where the junipers grow.

So we walked.

Words I actually said to my children, "Okay guys, watch out for cactus and cow patties and look for a good tree." Welcome to a High Plains Christmas experience.

We found a good tree fairly close to the van, actually, but decided to continue our walk to where our friend said there was a dirt tank.

And here it is.

A dirt tank is just a dug-out spot that fills with water when there's rain to create a watering hole for cattle. Obviously, we haven't had much rain lately, so it was dry, but the boys still found some snail shells in it. So that was thrilling.

Poppy was not quite so enamored of the dirt tank and preferred to hang out with me.

Or, sometimes, ON me.

She also required some assistance on the walk back.

This job I am happy to leave to A.

When we got back to the tree we had chosen, A. did his annual fatherly duty of getting his knees wet while he cut down the Christmas tree.

Cubby would have been happy to help, but by now A. and I really just wanted to get home.

After getting home, fortifying ourselves with tuna salad and hot cocoa, and changing into dry pants, A. set the tree up in its rustic bucket on the even more rustic bench, and I commenced my annual duty of stringing lights on a tree while keeping the children out of the box of ornaments.

Then they decorated the tree, and themselves.

Jack is Santa Claus, Poppy is Mrs. Claus, Charlie is an elf working in Santa's workshop, and Cubby is a mad elf because they were fighting about two seconds before I took this photo.

And there it is! The tree is up, it is decorated, and all we have to do now is wait for Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Friday Food: Hot Dogs To End a Streak



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!

Burgers and taters.


Short version: Shepherd's pie, pots de creme

Long version: It's been awhile since I've made shepherd's pie, but I really like it. So when I pondered what to do with the rest of the ground beef I had taken out the day before, I decided to go for it.

The meat mixture usually had green peas and corn in it. I had neither, so I used green beans and diced carrots instead. Plus tomato juice, onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, a bit of brandy, and thyme. Top with mashed potatoes, dot with butter, bake, and definitely enjoy.

I made the pots de creme for the second Sunday in a row because I wanted to try it with the evaporated milk. The children agreed that they would like to have pots de creme for every Sunday dessert from now on. Probably not, but duly noted.


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.

That's a lot of vegetal sustenance right there.

I asked him to do it Sunday morning so we could bring several chunks to church for some of the older people. Every person over the age of 70 here remembers this squash from their youth. No one really grows it anymore, though, so they were all thrilled to get some. We gave away about half of that behemoth. 

I cooked the other half, which yielded approximately two gallons of calabaza, mostly for the freezer. We ate some of it this night, though. About a cup. Just a drop in the squash bucket, you might say.


Short version: Green chili pork casserole, frozen green beans

Long version: I wanted to make a casserole of some kind so I could bring one to our priest when we went to Mass this night. He drives hundreds of miles every week, ministering to a very large parish, and he doesn't have any help doing it, either. He lives alone, and it's a bummer to cook for one person all the time. So whenever we go to church in the other village, where his house is, I try to bring him food.

I hadn't taken any meat out to thaw, though, so in the morning I pulled out a big package of those boneless country ribs and put them in my 9x13 Pyrex pan completely frozen. And then I put about a cup of roasted green chilis on top, also completely frozen. I baked that for about 3 hours at 350 degrees, along with some vinegar, a clove of garlic, and the onions left over from the night I made hamburgers.

When the meat was tender, I chopped it up and mixed it with cooked diced potatoes. The sauce was just the juices and the chilis and everything blended with some cream cheese in the food processor. I had to add some extra water, too, because it was a bit too dry. And then I topped it with grated cheddar.

It still needed more sauce, but it was very tasty. I'll probably make it again, but I need to figure out a way to make more sauce without using any more green chili, lest it get too spicy. Maybe bell peppers.


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

Tuesday Tips: Pandemic Pots de Creme

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)

2 eggs

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.

I, obviously, have neither. And it doesn't matter, because this magic recipe is delicious no matter what it's served in.

I think we could all use a little more liquified chocolate in our lives, right? Well, here you go. Chocolate comfort for a very strange time.

Update #1: I no longer use any of the added sugar in this recipe. It's sweet enough for us without it.

Update #2: I was having trouble for awhile with this not thickening when it was refrigerated, and I finally determined that doubling the recipe was causing the problem. So now, if want to make the quantity as written in this recipe, I do half at a time in the blender. No more problems with thickening.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Sunday Snapshots: Yes, Yet Another Alliterative Assigned Day

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.

Jasper in his accustomed guard position by the front door.

And one-eyed Odin, making sure he isn't overlooked.

Sheep, and chickens, and a horse.

All living communally in the small pasture by the house during the winter.

This random house A. took a picture of, I assume because he wants to incorporate some part of its design when he's working on the casita.

Also, the fantastically blue New Mexican sky, which looks NOTHING like a New York sky in November. And thank the heavens for that.

The point is, I'm going to try to be better about documenting some different things--for myself, for family that read this, and for anyone else who wants to come to the party. 

The easiest way to do that is to take pictures. I'm a terrible photographer, and finding my cell phone and using it to photograph things is always an effort for me, so I'm giving myself another self-imposed scheduled deadline. I know the best way to motivate myself is to set up an external expectation. 

Sundays it is, because then I can call it Sunday Snapshots. Wheee!

Are you tired of the alliteration yet? Because I'm not.

Anyway. That's the plan. Sunday vibes now include snapshots. Amen.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Friday Food: The One With the Leftover Turkey


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:

Holiday memories . . . of boys making silly faces.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, sabotage peppers, bread and butter, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: Time for a turkey break. Burgers it is.

The peppers were actually the very last peppers I had harvested from our garden before the freeze. That was, um, maybe six weeks ago? I thought they were all banana peppers, and they were the shape of banana peppers. They were all pretty green and immature, so I assumed they would just be like green bell peppers.

My first indication that they were not at ALL like bell peppers was when I threw them on the grill pan with the cheeseburgers and started coughing. 

Buckle up, kids. It's a spicy one.

When Charlie came in the kitchen for dinner, he said, "Why is there a smell that makes me feel like coughing?"

Because of the NOT BELL PEPPERS.

I gave the peppers to A., who ate some and then had to get milk to cool his mouth down. He said they had an afterburn that just kept increasing and didn't go away.

Cubby ate one, too, to clear out his stuffy nose. Charlie had a piece and ate the whole thing, because if Cubby could eat it, so could Charlie.

Jack tried a piece, but didn't finish it. And Poppy insisted on a piece. I gave her a speck about the size of a flea, because I was not interested in listening to screaming and wailing for the rest of dinner.

Anyway. Apparently you can't trust those banana peppers, even if they are green. Lesson learned.


Short version: Cheesy Deezy with turkey and peas for the kids, pizza turkey and pureed squash for A.. salad for me, pots de creme

Long version: Cheesy Deezy is the dish from A.'s childhood that's just pasta, marinara, and lots of mozzarella. I made it with pasta, Finny's sauce, and asadero cheese. Plus some turkey, because Cheesy Deezy is an excellent place to hide leftover turkey. I also put a breadcrumb topping on it, which I don't think the MiL ever did, but I haven't found any baked pasta that isn't improved with a crunchy topping of breadcrumbs, butter, and garlic powder.

A. had some of the leftover turkey heated up with Finny's sauce and asadero cheese.

Pots de creme is a recipe I got from the MiL, who in turn got it from her MiL, who got it from the cook at the hotel she and her husband ran in the Carribean. It's a good story, and an even better recipe. I think I'll feature it on Tuesday. Get excited. My kids certainly were to eat the pots de creme.


Short version: Same pasta, still-frozen green beans, pauper's beef burgundy and rice, pureed squash

Long version: Second verse, same as the first for the kids. Plus some our home-frozen green beans, still frozen because they like them that way.

For A. and me, I used the last quart jar of bull that didn't seal, plus sauteed onion and garlic and red wine from a box to make a version of beef burgundy. It was really good, actually. And certainly easy, since the meat was already all the way cooked. I really need to try pressure canning more of that bull following Karen.'s directions.


Short version: Bulk ground beef tacos

Long version: We have these ten-pound logs of ground beef in the freezer from the school, and they're very awkward. They take up a lot of space, and since they're already frozen, it's hard to get off a manageable amount to cook with.

So I decided to cook the entire unmanageable amount. I had to brown the meat in two very full batches in my biggest saucepan, then saute the onion, garlic, and tomatoes, and then put it all together in my biggest pot to simmer for awhile with the spices. It was like two gallons of meat.

I froze several containers, and used some of it for very straighforward tacos with store-bought corn tortillas.


Short version: Maple-mustard pork roast, leftover rice, frozen peas, mashed squash, gingerbread with whipped cream

Long version: The pork roast was a really big fresh ham that we got from the school cook. It must have been over ten pounds. It did, thankfully, fit in my big enameled cast iron dutch oven, so I just put it in there with some salt and water, covered it, and baked it for about five hours.

At dinner time, I sliced it and made a sauce for it in the pot with some of the cooking liquid, Dijon mustard, and maple syrup. Yum.

Since the oven was on most of the day anyway, I decided to bake a gingerbread cake**. Also, it was below freezing with howling winds all day and . . . you know what? I'm an adult. I can bake a cake on a random Wednesday if I want to.

I can also whip some cream for it when I serve it for dessert, because that is the best way to eat gingerbread. AND, I can light the Christmas candles Cubby and Charlie made at school and that are currently our table centerpiece.

Remember a couple of years ago when everyone was talking about hygge? You're looking at it.


Short version: Leftover pork with barbecue sauce, green salad with ranch dressing, baked custard

Long version: I baked bread this day, so the kids had their pork as sandwiches. A. had his with rice. 

I opened my last bottle of New-York-State-specific barbecue sauce for this. All the barbecue sauce I've found here is way too hot. I'm going to have to start making my own now. Boo.

And yes, another dessert that is not on a Sunday. I had a gallon of milk that was a couple of days past its sell-by date, so I thought I'd better use half of it for a double batch of custard. No one complained.

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

* 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.