Friday, September 11, 2020

Friday Food: Obscene Squash, Abundant Ribs, and Triumphant Watermelon



Short version: Curried chicken and potatoes, frozen green peas

Long version: I had made some curried squash soup earlier in the week with the last of the mashed squash and the chicken stock from poaching chicken. It was tasty soup, but too thin. So I used it as a sauce for chicken pieces and potatoes, instead of eating it as soup.

All I did was brown the chicken, then dump the soup over the pieces in a big skillet, along with some chunks of potato, and cook it covered until everything was done. I stirred in sour cream at the end, too, and the result was very much appreciated by the family.

Even Charlie, who rarely deigns to comment favorably on his food, asked me, "What is this sauce? It's really good."

I win!


Short version: Beef pot roast, pasta, green salad with ranch dressing, custard

Long version: The pot roast cooked in the morning with just some salt and tomatoes, then I pulled it apart at dinner time and heated it up with a cube of garlic scape pesto. Yum.

The children were pleased with the pasta, which was my childhood comfort food of pasta with butter, cream cheese, garlic powder, and pepper. I could eat a whole pot of that by myself. It wouldn't be good for me, but I could do it.

I made the custard only because I had some milk that needed to be used up and the oven was on already for a long time for the beef. I intended to save it for our Sunday dessert, but I decided to be indulgent and let everyone have it after dinner Saturday instead.

Custard is really hard to judge for doneness. At least, it's really hard for me. Especially because I always make a double batch, which does not necessarily translate to double the baking time. I slightly overcooked this one, which results in a bit of separation and makes it not as silky in texture as it should be, but it was still good.


Short version: Pork spareribs, bashed potatoes, mashed squash, green salad with ranch dressing, ice cream sandwiches

Long version: One of the packages of meat A. came home with a couple of months ago contained two entire racks of ribs. It was a LOT of ribs. And it was already frozen, so I couldn't easily separate them. I just chucked the whole thing in the freezer, figuring I'd deal with it later.

Later was Saturday, when I took them out to thaw. A. put a spice rub on them that night and I swathed the pan in aluminum foil and left it in the refrigerator overnight. Then in the morning--at 6 a.m., to be precise--I put them in a 300 degree oven and left them there until they were all the way done, around noon. 

While the oven was on, I also baked some potatoes. Then, at dinner time, I scooped out the now-cold potato from the skins, heated them up, and mashed in some chicken stock that was in the refrigerator, plus butter, milk, and sour cream. You might notice I cleverly called the resulting roughly-mashed potatoes "bashed potatoes." Get it? Baked+mashed? Yeah. 

Also while the oven was on, I put in a squash. A. did his own preemptive harvesting this day, which included all of the squash.

It was, um, a lot of squash.

Toddler for scale.

Perhaps you need a close-up of that yellow squash next to Poppy that looks like it's half her height? Surely, a squash couldn't be that big?

Oh yes, it could. And don't call me Shirley. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

That, my friends, is how big a calabaza can get if it's assiduously watered. It's a bit obscene. Cooking it should be interesting.

A. had finished the rest of the custard in the morning for breakfast, so I just bought some ice cream sandwiches at the tiny store in the village we always stop in after church. It was hot. I was not into baking.


Short version: Leftover ribs, rice, carrots

Long version: I harvested the carrots during the preemptive harvesting I was doing ahead of our cold snap. It was a pretty small patch in the pasture, but I'm always surprised at how many carrots come out of even a small patch. At least a big grocery store bag's worth.

A. took the kids to a lake about an hour away to fish in the morning. 

They didn't catch any fish, but a good time was had by all nevertheless, because they did get to swim. Hooray for 95 degrees in September. I guess.

I stayed home and harvested tomatoes, carrots, and green beans in anticipation of the cold weather to come.


Short version: Leftover ribs (again), pizza, roasted green beans, roasted tomatoes, leftover mashed squash, triumphant watermelon

Long version: I was baking bread, which means I usually make garlic bread, but I decided to give the kids a break from the never ending ribs and make pizza instead. I had some roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic that I had cooked when the oven was on a few days before to make the pot roast, so I just mashed those together for the pizza sauce. 

It was just a cheese pizza, and only one, but it came out well and was appreciated.

The watermelon was triumphant because it was one that volunteered in the backyard garden near the asparagus bed. It turned out to be a proper big watermelon. 

Watermelon, with photo-bombing bread.

We harvested it so it wouldn't freeze, and it was very, very good. Definitely better than the Moon and Stars watermelons, which never tasted any better than your average store seedless watermelon.

As you know, we have much higher standards for watermelons than that.

Needless to say, we saved the seeds and there will be many more of these mystery melons planted last year. Because anything that has the vigor to grow by itself here is definitely a keeper.


Short version: Quick ground beef tacos, pinto beans

Long version: A work day, which is why I did the quick version of ground beef taco meat. That is, browned ground beef, some already-cooked onion slices I chopped up with kitchen shears, salsa, chili powder, cumin, vinegar, done. And definitely no homemade tortillas on work days.

I had made the pinto beans the day before, when it was cold and cooking a pot of beans on the stove all day made for some welcome warmth. It's been awhile since I've wanted more heat in my kitchen, so that was nice.


Short version: Fried eggs, curried split peas, rice, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: I used the other jar of too-thin curried squash soup for the split peas. It's nice that three of the four children really like curry, as I also really like curry, but really do not like cooking anything extra if I'm the only one eating it.

The fourth child ate eggs, and everyone was happy.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What Stalks in the Night


Good news! It didn't freeze Tuesday night! We squeaked by with 33 degrees, which means all the battling I did with covers in the howling wind to protect my tomato plants was unnecessary. That's okay by me, though. It's going to get warm again, and I anticipate some good harvests of green beans and tomatoes. I'm very glad none of the plants died.

Something else did die that night, though: a sheep. And that is definitely a story you don't hear every day. I will tell it, with fair warning that it involves nature in a somewhat grisly form. 

Although we didn't know it, the drama actually began late in the afternoon. The sheep and the horse were together in the field adjoining our next-door "new" house, which is visible from our kitchen windows. We were eating dinner when Cubby jumped up from the table, saying, "What are the sheep doing? They're running. And the horse is going crazy!"

The sheep were bunched up in the way that they do when they feel threatened, and the horse was galloping around, which is not something he does unless greatly agitated. We thought maybe there had been a rattlesnake or something, so Cubby and A. went out and looked around a bit. They didn't see anything, so A. wrote it off as a nervous reaction to the incredibly high winds and changing weather.

When night fell, the horse was back in his pen near the house, and the sheep were in the vineyard pasture that A. had fenced off for them to eat all the weeds in it. The vineyard pasture is right behind the house, and it adjoins the same pasture the sheep had been in earlier. I was just about to go to bed when Cubby came running out of his room, saying there was a commotion in the pasture. 

His window looks out on the vineyard pasture and the horse pen, and he heard the two dogs going nuts and the horse whinnying and galloping around. A. took his spotlight out to investigate. He found the dogs in with the sheep. They had the flock all rounded up in a bunch in a corner of the pasture. 

These dogs come from cattle-working breeds and are instinctual herders, so A. figured they were just having a little fun and scolded them before putting the sheep back into the next-door pasture and closing the gate so the dogs couldn't get at them. He shut the dogs in the porch for good measure, to ensure no more unauthorized activity.

The horse was hysterical, A. assumed in reaction to the sheep's nervousness and running around, so A. went in with Samson and patted and soothed him a little.

The next morning, just as we were about to all get on the bus for school, A. came in to tell us there was a sheep dead only about six feet from the house, practically under Cubby's bedroom window. It's throat had been ripped out and a few bites taken from its udder. 

It was clearly not a natural death. The question was, what killed it?

Here's what A. thinks happened. A mountain lion was passing through when it smelled the sheep and stopped to investigate. It was probably hiding somewhere around all the old sheds and things by the next-door pasture when the sheep and horse got so agitated in the late afternoon. Then it jumped the fence and took down the sheep when night fell. It only got a few bites before the dogs chased it off, though, and shortly after that, A. went outside. He didn't see the dead sheep in the dark.

Mountain lions generally live in the canyons here, where the larger game animals live and where there is plenty of cover for the lions' preferred stalking method of hunting. They do sometimes travel on the plateau where we live, particularly when the weather is changing. They are very large--males are over 100 pounds--almost completely fearless, and undaunted by fences. 

They will also kill small women and children, so it's definitely not something you want to have around your house. And I was not too easy in my mind when I considered Cubby tromping around the pasture in the afternoon while a mountain lion watched him from its hiding place.

A. made sure his spotlight and gun were ready last night, but everything remained quiet, so it's most likely that the animal has moved on. The ewe that was killed was a very old one we were going to cull anyway. She was already bloated and inedible by the time A. found her, but there wasn't much meat on her anyway, so it wasn't a great loss.

The real heroes here are Jasper and Odin, who chased off a predator that outweighs them by fifty pounds or more. Those dogs are apparently entirely unafraid of any animal, and those are definitely the kind of dogs we need to have.

As A. said, we had gotten accustomed to living here, considering it just like anywhere. And then we get a reminder like this that we do indeed live in a remote and wild place, where mountain lions might appear at any time.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

A Clothesline for the Times


It's Sunday! And that means my clothesline looks like this:

And on the seventh day, she washed face masks.

Also today, the backyard garden looks like this:

So green! So verdant! So doomed.

It's going to be 95 degrees today. It's going to be 95 degrees tomorrow. But Tuesday? Tuesday, our high--our high!-- is forecast to be 54 degrees.

A 40-degree drop in one day is extreme even for this place of extreme weather. But even more extreme than that? We're forecast to have a freeze Tuesday night. 

No, 29 degrees on September 8 is not normal, nor is it appreciated. I spent all summer watering those tomatoes in the above photo to keep them alive so I could get a good harvest, anticipating that the majority of the tomatoes would be harvested in September. There are a LOT of green tomatoes on the plants. But they will not survive 29 degrees.

I'll cover the ones that have the most tomatoes on them as best I can, but I don't have enough material to cover all of them. Anyway, our forecast also calls for 30-mile-an-hour winds, which is going to make it hard to keep them covered.

Oh well. Mama N. giveth, and she taketh away. Such is the nature of gardening.

Still kind of sucks, though.