Friday, January 15, 2021

Friday Food: Fresh Fish, Giant Pork, and Bull Chili


Short version: Fish, leftover pasta with pesto and mashed potatoes, frozen corn, mashed squash

Long version: I managed to cook the fish we brought home from our great ice-fishing adventure, but heating up leftovers to go with it was about as much extra food preparation as I could manage.

It was a fun trip, but man, talk about exhausting.


Short version: Fish cakes, leftover pork, rice, mashed squash, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: Those two fish were so big, we actually had some left over. So I used that to make fish cakes (leftover fish, bread crumbs, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, dill). There were only four fish cakes, though, so I fried the rest of the leftover pork, too.

Random (and I do mean random) photo break!

It's a Christmas tree! It's a candy cane! It's . . . Super Pandemic Princess Poppy! Or the Masked Bear Crusader? Or something. Your guess is as good as mine.


Short version: Bull chili, rice, chocolate chip cookies

Long version: I put one of the half-gallon jars of pressure-canned bull meat to simmer all day with onion, garlic, green chili, tomatoes, cumin, and red chili powder. 

The children had it over rice with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Cubby made the chocolate chip cookies the day before, just because he felt like making cookies. Fine with me. I didn't want to bake anything for the Sunday dessert, anyway.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, fried onions, bread and butter, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: These were the extra hamburgers I had formed and frozen the week before. Very handy.


Short version: Pork, mashed potatoes, roasted onions, steamed broccoli

Long version: I finally found the courage to face one of the absolutely ENORMOUS packages of pork A. brought home from the store a month or so ago. The label said it was two pork butt roasts, but they must have been off a seriously gigantic hog.

One-cup measure for scale. I mean, is that obscene or what?

I pulled it out before I went to bed the night before and when I got to it around 8 a.m., it was just thawed enough to manage, but not thawed so much that I couldn't put some of it back into the freezer. Good thing, because that would have been an intimidating amount of meat to deal with in one day.

Unfortunately, the roasts did have a bone, so I just kind of hacked the roasts into rough pieces around the bones and put the pieces that were still frozen back into the freezer. The rest of it went into my enameled cast iron Dutch oven to cook for a few hours until it was tender. At dinnertime, I just spread some of the pulled-apart pork on a sheet pan with some of the rendered fat, plus salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and broiled it all.

The onion was a huge one I sliced and cooked while the pork was cooking, and I was very glad I did. It was in there long enough to get a little caramelized, and it was great with the meat.

See? I'm following my own tip to Just Cook the Onion. Never a mistake.


Short version: Leftover pork two ways, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: The kids had the pork as pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce. A. and I had ours as fried pork. We were all fed and happy, the end.


Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, leftover mashed potatoes with cheese added, frozen corn, mashed squash

Long version: Leftover mashed potatoes are much improved by stirring in shredded cheese as they're being re-heated. Just a non-Tuesday Tip for you.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Quick Condiment Survey

After a conversation I had online about what condiments might be in my refrigerator, I started wondering how many condiments normal people keep on hand.

I don't count myself as normal, because I just don't buy a lot of prepared foods of any sort. And my food is really boring--as evidenced by the very repetitive Friday Food posts here--so having just a few things on hand works for me. If I were making a lot of differently flavored foods, like Indian or Japanese, I'm sure I would have a lot of different things on hand.

As it is, I counted the purchased condiments on my refrigerator door and came up with four: Salsa, mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup. I also usually have bottled lemon juice and jelly, though I don't know if those count as condiments.

I often have ranch dressing, vinaigrette, and chili sauce around, too, but I make those myself.

So, my question for you: How many purchased condiments do you have in your refrigerator on a regular basis? You don't have to list them, I was wondering more about the quantity.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tuesday Tips: When Necessary, Hide

One of the great contradictions of my life is that I am an introvert who has difficulties with excess stimulation, and yet . . . I have four children.

Children are pretty much nothing but a guarantee of constant company and stimulation. Usually of the excessively loud auditory variety. Over the years, I have mostly learned to deal with this and kind of tune it out.*

But sometimes, escape is the only solution.

My options for escape, however, are pretty limited. I mean, it's not as if I'm just going to run out to the nearest coffee shop. Although, given that that's a 180-mile roundtrip drive, that would be quite a bit of time out of the house.

It recently occurred to me that this is now a common situation for many people, because even if there is a coffee shop near your house, it's probably closed or only offers carry-out.

So where do you go when you need a break and can't leave the house? I will tell you: Behind any locked door, that's where.

Our bedroom door has a lock, so when four o'clock rolls around and I've been dealing with three children on and off Zoom for school all week, with the bonus of a nosy toddler who has the unfortunate habit of going into fits over things like wearing socks, and constant demands for food or clean pants or arbitration over who is hogging all the guys in the soldier set or . . .

Well. You get it.

At such times, I hide in my bedroom.

Welcome to my Mom Cave.

I am usually opposed to eating or drinking anywhere but the kitchen, but I make an exception for this case.

I provide myself with a drink--sometimes alcoholic, sometimes not--and occassionally a snack, because there are few things more satisfying to me than eating or drinking without inevitably having to provide something similar to my children. I bring my laptop, and I spend 45 minutes aimlessly watching YouTube videos or listening to music.

I don't always know what's happening on the other side of the locked door. Sometimes I put on a video to keep the children occupied; sometimes I leave them to the mercy of their father. 

In any case, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that I am not the one on call.

So if you find yourself in a similar situation, I absolutely encourage you to get behind a locked door, however you can manage it. It's not the same as a real outing, but these days, we take what we can get.

* With the exception of music and reading aloud. If there are children screaming and running around--which, of course, there almost always are--I absolutely cannot read aloud to a child or listen to music. Something about the competing noises just triggers me beyond bearing.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Snapshots: The Army Goes Ice Fishing*

(I dropped the "Sunday" in the title because it was just too long, but rest assured, it will still be on Sundays. I know you were worried.)

"Hold up," you say. "Ice fishing? In New Mexico? Land of enchantment and incredibly strong winter sun? Surely that's not safe."

Ah, but you (and I) forget: We have very, very high mountains in New Mexico. And the altitude makes up for the sun when it comes to cold weather. Oddly enough, there are places in New Mexico that have very early and safe ice for ice fishing. Far safer even than upstate New York, where A. meant to go ice fishing every year and always seemed to miss the small window of time with safe ice.

In fact, the last time he actually went ice fishing was the time we all went. When "all" of us was only A., me, Cubby, and Charlie, because it was almost exactly seven years ago.

Because A. has been meaning to go for years, he actually already had an ice auger (a large screw for drilling the fishing hole down through the ice) and the small rods typically used for ice fishing. He bought three of them when we were living in far northern New York, and those rods, still in their packaging, plus the never-used auger, moved here with us along with the snowshoes.

The showshoes have actually been used right here by our house, and now the fishing rods and auger have been used, too.

To use those, though, we had to drive to the mountains. There's a small lake in the Rocky Mountains about two hours from us that has safe ice, so that's where we headed on Friday. The forecast there was for a high of 40 degrees, with partial cloud cover. And I thought, "Partial cloud cover? In the middle of a lake where there will probably be wind? Oh man, this is gonna be COLD."

I know, you see, that all of the heat in this state in the winter comes from the sun. It can feel like a spring day any day of the winter if the sun is out. As soon as the sun is blocked, though, it becomes winter again.

Therefore, I prepared the children for real winter. Everyone wore wool socks, long underwear, and wool sweaters, and I had an entire big laundry basket in the car with all the coats, gloves, hats, and extra clothes in case anyone got wet.

But then, when we arrived at the lake, there was literally not a cloud to be seen.

Well, hello, famously blue winter sky of New Mexico!

We were at an elevation of a little over 8,000 feet, and that sun was glaring down like a heat lamp on rotisserie chickens. Within fifteen minutes, we had all removed our coats. 

They made excellent blankets for sitting on.

A. found a previously drilled hole near the shore that had frozen over and decided to re-drill that one to save himself some work. He put his auger in, cranked it one turn, and . . . it broke. Yes, on the very first turn. A. has a history of breaking hand tools--he's just too strong for a lot of them--but that was ridiculous.

The little pin that attaches the handle to the screw snapped off, so he trudged back to the car to see if he could find something to replace the pin. 

He didn't, but a family parked next to us in the parking lot had an ax in the back of their car that they graciously allowed A. to use, so he brought that back along with a tire iron. With those two items, he managed to open up two holes.


While he was engaged in manually chopping out eight inches of ice--which, by the way, NO ONE does--a guy went past us pulling a sled with his own ice-fishing gear. He offered to let A. use his manual auger after he was done drilling his own holes.

So A. did, and thankfully didn't break the borrowed auger while drilling out three more holes.

Then five poles (three ice-fishing poles, and two regular poles) were baited and dropped in five holes, and the fishing commenced.

One nice thing about ice fishing is that the holes are too small for children to fall into, so there's no possibility of drowning.

There is a 100% possibility of wet mittens, however.

After getting her mittens wet--and getting bored of sitting by the hole--Poppy wanted to go back to the car. The actual fishing had just started, however, so we made her a nest on the ice, instead.

Daddy's coat and a wool blanket make an excellent sleeping bag.

Cubby had a big fish on his line at one point that cut the line--there are pike in this lake, and they have sharp teeth--but there wasn't much action at first.

With the exception of coming out to eat her picnic lunch, Poppy pretty much stayed there in her makeshift sleeping bag. At one point, she asked me to go check "her" fishing rod. It was only about ten feet away, and I could see that it hadn't moved, but I told her I would. 

So I went over to it. No sign of activity. But just so I could assure her that I had really checked it, I reached out to pick it up and test for any tension on the line. And literally JUST as I was about to touch the handle, it jerked.

How did she know?

I grabbed the rod, of course, but also of course surrendered it immediately to A. for the actual landing (icing?) of the fish. Because what do I know about landing a fish? Absolutely nothing. And it turns out you have to know quite a bit to land a fish from under the ice.

A. spent several minutes playing the fish, letting it get a bit worn out before he tried to pull it out of the hole. 

With a rapt audience, of course.

He did manage to get it up and out eventually, and Poppy got to pose with "her" fish.

A nice big rainbow trout.

Catching a fish revitalized her and then she was happy to be out playing.

Mostly with the fish.

A. was really jazzed to have caught such a big fish. I was happy we caught anything at all and was about ready to pack it in. But then, as A. was just finishing up with gutting that trout and was going over to check some of the lines, the pole in that same hole started to move and, before he could get to it, was pulled right into the hole and out of reach.


That close call made A. more determined than ever to fish a little longer. So we decided to stay until 2:15 p.m. 

I had made a joke about how Poppy must have heard the fish coming, because she was lying down on the ice, so Cubby and Charlie went over to their poles and lay down next to them. Charlie told me he was "talking" to the fish, too, to encourage them to take his bait. Okay.

There was no more excitement and at our agreed-upon time, A. started to go around to the holes and pull in the lines.

He left Cubby's and Charlie's poles to the end, and just as he was about to go over there, Charlie got a hit.

I guess he has a mind-meld with the fish?

In any case, Cubby was closer than A., so he grabbed the pole and, with A.'s guidance, worked on landing  this one.


It was a good thing Cubby was managing the pole while A. waited to get the fish out of the water, because this was a bigger fish and broke the line juuuust as it was coming up out of the water. A. had hold of the line with one hand, felt it break, and instinctively smacked the fish with his other hand out onto the ice.

It was really funny. I wish I had a video of A. slapping the fish out.

We measured that one, and it was a 17-inch rainbow trout.

Charlie the fish-whisperer and his fish.

I called a halt at this high point and we packed up and went back to the van to make our weary way home.

We got home just in time for a slightly delayed dinner. Of course, we had fish.

Doesn't get much fresher than this.

All in all, a day for the books. (Or rather, the blog.)

* The reason I used this title is because as we were getting back into the van, another ice fisherman noted our full vehicle and said, "You really got an army there." Yup. Sounds about right.