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.