Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday Food: The One With the Turkey


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.

Cobblers are red, violets are blue . . .

We continued the Valentine's theme with a dance party in the kitchen while I was cleaning up, for which Poppy insisted on changing into a dress.

The height disparity was challenging.

But she still managed to get some good twirls in.


Short version: Beef and vegetable soup, cheese, leftover dessert

Long version: Poor Charlie came down with a cold this day and had a pretty bad sore throat. He's not a huge fan of soup, but I made it anyway because it's easy on a sore throat. 

This soup was onion, garlic, celery, carrot, tomatoes, potatoes, some spinach that had been in the freezer awhile, green peas, pinto beans, and the last bit of the bull meat I had cooked for the potato skillet. 

I had taken out a small container of chicken stock from the freezer, which I used, but then I also ended up with several cups of beef liquid because I decided to try pressure canning some of the bull meat and needed to boil that until it was hot before putting it in the jars. There was quite a bit of liquid left after filling the jars, so I used some of it for the soup.

When I tasted the soup right before dinner, it tasted pretty bland, so I added in garlic powder, more salt and pepper, and about a quarter cup of red wine. That was a big improvement.

Because I tend to use soups as a way to just use up whatever I have on hand, rather than making a specific recipe, they can be sort of hit or miss. This one was a hit. Charlie even ate his bowl without complaint. And then he got to have a bowl of ice cream, which is of course soothing for a sore throat but is also a good morale booster.


Short version: Cafeteria hamburgers, rice, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: Our school decided to do online learning for the two weeks after the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, which left the school cook with a lot of food on hand that she wasn't going to use. So they sent it all home on the buses for the families. Because we didn't have a few of the kids on the bus last week, that meant that we took home more than half of the food that was on our bus.

So we got five HUUUUGE cans of pinto beans, five HUUUUGE cans of fruit salad, I think four five-pound logs of ground beef, three giant pork roasts, and two large bags of pre-cooked hamburgers. That's probably 100 hamburgers. 

Those are the hamburgers I made for this meal. I didn't have any expectation that they would actually be good, but I was hoping they would be okay.

They weren't. They were gross.

I had a few left over, and they were so unappealing to me that I didn't even save them. That's how you know how much I did not like them, because I NEVER throw away leftovers. I didn't actually throw them away, but I did put them in a bowl on the counter to give to the dogs. 

But then Cubby was wandering through the kitchen an hour or so after dinner and remarked, "I see you have a lot of left over hamburgers. Can I have one?"

Uh. Sure?

And then Poppy and Charlie followed Cubby's lead, which meant there were three kids sitting on the floor in the kitchen, eating the leftover cafeteria hamburgers that I was planning on giving to the dogs.

Good thing they'll eat them, I guess, because we have approximately ninety hamburgers left.


Short version: Failed canned bull tacos

Long version: I decided on Monday to try pressure canning some of the bull meat. I figured it would get some of it out of our now alarmingly stuffed freezers, and also tenderize it during the pressure canning. I have had a pressure canner for many years, but thus far had only used it to can things like chicken broth and low-acid salsa. 

The long canning time was a one of the reasons I never tried canning meat. An hour and a half at pressure for quart jars is a long time, but not as long as the six or more hours I have to simmer the meat to make it tender on the stovetop. So I filled my biggest pot with chunks of bull meat and got the meat all hot in preparation for putting it in the hot jars, and thence into the canner.

My biggest pot looked big, until I put the pressure canner next to it on the stove.

Size is definitely relative.

I ended up with six quarts of meat, which I duly kept in the canner for an hour and a half. When I took them out, a LOT of the liquid in the jars had boiled out. And in the end, only three of the six jars sealed. Annoying.

But! I tasted the meat in the jars that didn't seal, and it definitely got very tender. So I think maybe I'll just use my pressure canner pot as a pressure cooker--not all pressure canners can be used as cookers, but mine can--and then freeze it after it's cooked.

Anyway. The meat for the tacos was the meat from those jars that failed to seal. All I did was fry the meat with green chili, garlic, cumin, and red chili powder. It got all shreddy and delicious. And it was very easy, since the meat was already cooked and all. Hooray for the pressure canner!


Short version: Turkey, etc.

Long version: And here we go. 

Turkey--onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and some green tomatoes (because why not?) in the cavity, roasted according to this method, except it was pretty brown even when I uncovered it, so I didn't roast it at the high heat for very long. It came out well.

Stuffing/dressing--sourdough bread cubes, finely diced onion and celery, lots of butter, turkey stock, and sage. Some baked in the turkey, some baked in a separate dish, because I prefer the crispier kind.

Mashed potatoes--I put some cream cheese in there with the milk and butter, just for the hell of it. They were good, but no better than when I use my usual sour cream. 

Green beans--my own green beans that I froze this summer, with bacon and finely diced onion. My favorite part of the meal.

Green salad--with ranch dressing, for those children (all of them, the weirdos) that didn't want the green beans.

Gravy--pan juices+turkey stock made from the turkey neck in the morning+cornstarch. Pretty standard.

And here it all is:

With some photo-bombing by Poppy's feet.

The kids also got to have lemonade with their dinners (just sugar, water, and bottled lemon juice), which they thought was great.

They thought the whole thing was exciting. Especially the part where they got to serve themselves and eat as much as they wanted of whatever they wanted. The allure of the buffet is strong for children.

And let us not forget the pie! As if we could. So how was the infamous pie?

It was good. Really.

I had instructed A. that he was to emote over the pie, no matter what he actually thought of it, but he genuinely loved it and complimented Cubby on the seasoning of it. The ginger was much less pronounced after the chilling, and served with sweetened whipped cream, which of course it was, it actually was good.

Cubby got his piece first, tasted it, and said, "Well, not to be too self-congratulatory, but THIS IS AWESOME."

The proud pie maker and his pie. (And his brothers in the background, comparing the rotundity of their very full stomachs. Nice.)

Even Charlie, who doesn't even like pie, said it was okay and ate all of his.

I should have baked it about 15 minutes longer because it was still pretty soft in the middle, but such are the hazards of high-altitude baking. Given my low expectations for its edibility, I'm going to call it a success.

In fact, I'm going to call the entire meal a success, which is nice, given that it was the very first full, traditional Thanksgiving dinner I have ever made by myself.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2020


Every day, for this messy, loud, chaotic, and altogether wonderful life. 

And I am most especially thankful for the chaos-makers. 

Literally the only recent photo I have of all four of my children together, but a very representative scene in this house.

Happy Thanksgiving, my lovelies. I hope your day is merry and bright.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Look! A Pie! FINALLY

 I'm just gonna come right out and say it: I don't like pumpkin pie. And I don't really like baking. So why did I spend almost an ENTIRE DAY baking a pumpkin pie?

Because I love my son. That is the only reason.

Cubby wanted to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. He's into pie, as I've mentioned before, and he knows pumpkin pie is the traditional pie for Thanksgiving. So he asked to make one.

We have so much squash on hand, it's ridiculous, so I said okay. I thought, since neither of us is an expert pie baker, it would be best to make this pie the day before so I wasn't dealing with a kid in the kitchen and an unfamiliar dish while simultaneously cooking the rest of the holiday meal.

This turned out to be the only smart thing I did in the entire process.

Although I have plenty of squash already cooked and in the freezer, I figured I might as well just cook one of the squash that's still sitting in A.'s office. So I stuck one in the oven at 8 a.m. 

When the squash was done, Cubby scooped it out into the food processor and we pureed it. Then he started making the crust, using this recipe. He wanted to do it all himself, so I just read the recipe to him while he did it.

While he was doing that, I started removing the squash from the food processor. It was nice and smooth and thick. I tasted a bit as I was putting it in a Pyrex to measure it. Good thing, because the entire thing tasted like mold. 

Awesome. This is what I get for not using a can of pumpkin, like a normal person.

So all eight cups of that nicely pureed squash went to the chickens, and I took two bags of frozen squash out of the freezer after all.

Cubby meanwhile had finished his pie dough and put one half of it in the refrigerator to chill. The other half went into the freezer for some future use.

I had to thaw the frozen lumps of squash, so those went into a pot on the stove to simmer until it was all thawed. I had to use a pot anyway for the pumpkin pie filling--according to this recipe--so I figured I might as well thaw the squash in the pot.

Then I transfered the squash to the food processor, again, and pureed it. Again. And then I tasted it, again. No mold. Hooray!

Moving on.

I measured out the approximately four cups of squash we would need back into the pot and then called Cubby back into the kitchen to add the spices. Again, he wanted to do it himself as I read the recipe to him. I sat at the table to read the recipe from my computer while he was at the stove measuring spices. Then he turned the stove on and the squash started blurping all over my stove. And the wall behind it.

Cubby thought this was awesome and called Charlie in to see. I told him to STIR IT so I wouldn't be washing half the squash off the wall.

I was so over all of this already. 

Now it was time to get the pie dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out. I told Cubby I would stir the squash while he did that. 

While I was stirring, I tasted a bit. Remember how well that went last time I tasted squash. Yeah, this wasn't any better.

No mold this time, but waaaay too many spices in that pot. This was explained when I asked Cubby what he used to measure the spices and he showed me the teaspoon measure. He was supposed to use a half teaspoon measure. So there was twice as much spices as there was supposed to be. 

It tasted gross, all acrid and way too gingery. Even though Cubby definitely added more than the recipe called for, I think this recipe as written called for a LOT more ginger than necessary. I had to add all the rest of the pureed squash to the pan, and it still was too spicy. So I ended up adding a can of pumpkin I actually had in the pantry, thanks to our neighbors and the commodities drop-off, to further dilute the spices.

Yes, you can all chortle over the fact that after all that crap with the squash, I STILL ended up using a can of pumpkin. I just couldn't face thawing and pureeing yet more squash.

Anyway, we ended up with twice as much filling in the pot, which did not help the spattering situation.

Who's having fun now! NOT ME.

I froze the extra pie filling, to be used at some future date with the other pie dough in the freezer. How fortuitous.

There were no notable disasters with the rolling of the pie dough, although Cubby did have to be instructed more than once to roll it out more. I don't have a pie plate, so we were using a cake pan, which is a little higher, I think.

Looks pretty good so far.

We used pinto beans as our weights for the blind baking. I dumped a full quart jar of dry pinto beans into the lined pie crust and found when I poured them back into the jar that the hot pinto beans had apparently swelled a bit in the oven. I found this out when many beans went cascading all over my counter and onto the floor.


The blind baking proceeded without incident, and then we put the custard filling into the pie shell. I did not push the filling through a strainer as instructed by the recipe, because I was not about to get involved in anything like that after everything that had already happened.

After the complete pie was in the oven, I set Cubby to washing some of the millions of dishes that had been used during this fiasco. The pie was supposed to bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes, at which point I turned it down to 300 degrees, per the recipe.

About ten minutes after that, I realized that the oven had been accidentally turned down to less than 200 degrees while Cubby was putting dishes on the stove to dry.

At least I noticed it relatively quickly, I guess, although it was just the icing on this incredibly annoying cake. Or rather, pie.

The pie came out of the oven at 1:35 p.m. That's five and a half hours after we embarked on this ridiculous project. 

Obviously, we haven't eaten it yet, but I think I can state with some certainty that it was definitely NOT WORTH IT. I don't care if it's the best pumpkin pie in the history of pies. And I know it isn't, because of the overabundance of ginger.

But it's done, and we will have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner. 

So there.

We are also having turkey, which I also don't like and have never made but promised Cubby, again, that I would do it this year because EVERYONE has turkey for Thanksgiving, MOM.

I can only hope the turkey isn't as annoying as the pie. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Tuesday Tips: Seed Saving Strategies

Before we move on, I have to take a bow for the double alliteration up there in the title.

Okay. Moving on. 

Today's Tuesday Tip (there I go again!) is brought to you by Jilly in Australia, who e-mailed me to suggest that perhaps I could do a Tuesday tips post about saving seeds. She told me she possibly overbought seeds this year (which I take to mean she has A LOT OF SEEDS), and wanted to know how best to keep them for next year.

Also, she had a real Tomato Crazy year and was very excited about it. I am jealous.

Anyway. Seeds!

Okay, so I have never been very careful about storing seeds before. In fact, I just had them in A.'s old insulated lunch bag on top of the refrigerator, tossed in there all willy nilly, which resulted in some of the seeds spilling out of open packets, which I then sprinkled in a garden bed just to see what they were. *

Don't be like me. 

At least, don't be like former me. Be like current me, who sorted all my seeds and put them in sealing envelopes** and properly stored them upright in an opaque box in A.'s office, which stays very cool all winter and is a much better place to keep seeds than my kitchen.

Yay me!

The best environment for keeping seeds is cool, dry, and dark. 

You can keep them in the envelopes they came in, just fold down the top and secure it with a paper clip so they don't all spill out. Ahem. 

Jilly also wanted to know how long seeds will last. That kind of depends on the seed. There are lots of places online that give this information. Here's one from a good source. That document also gives good information on how to test if seeds are viable by sprouting them before planting.

What's really fun--for A. and me, anyway--is saving your own seeds. You can only do this with non-hybrid varieties, though. Seeds from hybrids won't reproduce a plant identical to the parent plant. 

We started saving seeds much more consciously this year, and we've saved quite a few things. 

We have a TON of saved squash seeds from various varieties. These are probably the easiest to save, because if you can scoop the guts out of a pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern, you can save squash seeds. You just put some of the seeds on a paper plate, let them dry very thoroughly, then stick them in a labeled paper envelope (name and date).

Do not, incidentally, store them in plastic zip-top bags. Because if they aren't absolutely, 100%, all the way dry, they will mold. And that is disgusting. I mean, so I hear. Ahem.

Also easy to collect are seeds from herbs. These form as seed heads after the plant flowers. Once the seed heads are dry, you can put a paper bag over the top of the plant, shake the plant right into the bag, then put the seeds in a labeled envelope. Same method with lettuce, which is a prolific seeder. I do not anticipate ever having to buy lettuce seed again.

Again, don't use a plastic bag. Not because of mold this time, but because the seeds stick to plastic thanks to the wonders of static cling, and are very, very hard to get out to store.

Tomato seeds are also very easy to save. (Lucky for you, Jilly!) I just squeeze some of the tomato guts where the seeds live out onto a paper plate and let them dry all the way. They kind of stick to the plate, but they're pretty easy to scrape off.

Root crops like carrots, beets, etc. are trickier, since they need a lot longer to go to seed. I've never actually let any of those go to seed yet, but those seeds are pretty cheap, so I'm not as motivated to save them as I am something like pepper seeds, which are crazy expensive.

Okay! I hope that answered the question. And I hope anyone who was thinking of saving seeds is now more motivated to try it. Or maybe anyone who wasn't thinking about it, is now. 

It's really not hard, and it's just one more thing you can do for yourself, rather than relying on an outside source that may or may not have what you want when you want it.

* They were mostly arugula seeds, which I let grow over the summer and go to seed, so I could save the seeds from them. In a properly sealed envelope this time.

** I bought these envelopes specifically for seeds, but they're reeeeeallly small. Bigger seeds like squash seeds have to go in multiple envelopes. They're great for tiny seeds like tomatoes and peppers, but next time I will buy slightly bigger ones.