Friday, February 26, 2021

Friday Food: Squishy Bread for Mopping


Short version: Tuna patties, mashed potatoes, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: Lenten meals are here again! It's hardly a penance for my kids to eat meatless on Fridays. I mean, what kid wouldn't rather have grilled cheese or tuna patties instead of a chunk of meat for dinner? Particularly the tuna in Cubby's case. That boy does love his fish. Always has.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, bread and butter, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: The only thing of note here is that every single one of my children likes cooked broccoli. The only other cooked vegetable I can think of that they all eat without complaint is peas. 

Including Mermaid Girl here.

We have peas much more frequently than broccoli, though, because peas come in a convenient frozen form. Broccoli we only have right after a trip to the store, which, as you know, is not a frequent occurrence.

I am aware that frozen broccoli is available as well, but I've never had good experiences with it. Maybe I just never prepared it right, though. Do you cook with frozen broccoli? How do you cook it if you do?


Short version: Roasted chicken, garlic bread, frozen peas, fake ice cream

Long version: A simple roast chicken with crusty bread to mop up the juices is a soul-satisfying meal to . . .

Sorry. I seem to have lapsed into Food-Media-speak.

I can't tell you how many rhapsodic Odes To The Roast Chicken I have read over the years. I mean, roasted chicken is good, but I think people get a little carried away with it.


This was just a store chicken. Into the cavity I stuffed a squeezed-out lemon, two cloves of garlic, and the ends from an onion I chopped up and roasted in the chicken juices. 

The only one who mopped up the juices was Cubby, who was very disappointed he couldn't have thirds of the chicken (he would probably agree with the food media chicken enthusiasts). I suggested he could use the last pieces of garlic bread to, yes, mop up the juices in the pan. 

I make garlic bread as a round loaf, and I keep it pretty soft, so it has lots of soft interior that's good for soaking things up. I don't think standard, very crusty and toasty slices of garlic bread would be so good for that. They're not squishy enough. 

But I guess telling people to use "squishy bread" to soak up the juices doesn't sound quite as appetizing as "a crusty loaf." Works better, though.

I had a bag of frozen banana pieces in the freezer, so I used that to make fake ice cream. I also added cocoa powder to it and the kids each got one Oreo, which was all that was left from the package I had bought to make the crust for Cubby's birthday chocolate cheesecake. 

They enjoyed the ice cream, but they were REALLY excited by the singular Oreo. Those low standards again.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, bread and butter, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: But wait. Didn't we just have this night before last? Yes. Did anyone care? No.

I had taken out extra ground beef in anticipation of making either meatloaf or meatballs ahead of time so I could just put them in the oven when I got home from work on Monday. But then we ran out of eggs.

Hamburgers it is! And bread, because I had just made bread the day before. 

No one ever complains about hamburgers (I suspect it's the ketchup, which is a rare condiment in our house), and the children certainly never complain about bread with dinner.


Short version: Boneless ram ribs, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli and carrots

Long version: When we butchered the ram in November, A. cut most of the rib meat off the bones. Storing the ribs is a pain because they're too big for the bags we use, so I think maybe he was trying to find a better way to freeze the meat.

I pulled that bag of meat out this day. Ribs are best cooked slow and then crisped up. And sheep ribs are best marinated first.

So I marinated the meat in apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper for a few hours, then put it in a covered casserole in the oven at 350 degrees for about four hours.

I didn't add any liquid, and although the meat did release some liquid, it sure released a heck of a lot of fat. So the meat ended up basically frying it its own fat much of the time, kind of like carnitas. 

One benefit of this cooking method is that the fat kept bubbling the entire time I had the casserole out of the oven to dish up, thereby avoiding the dreaded Congealed Sheep Fat situation. Nothing ruins a meal faster than that.

I didn't end up crisping it any further because of that frying situation.

The resulting meat was similar to very thick-cut bacon in both texture and appearance. It tasted pretty good, actually, but I figured it might be a bit of a hard sell for the children.

So I let them have some ketchup.

They have ketchup rarely, and it's a handy treat to save for meat that I know they won't be wild about. Dipping almost any meat in ketchup makes it more palatable for them. 

And so it proved with this rib meat. Both Poppy and Jack asked for seconds. Of both the meat and the ketchup.

The worst part of cooking sheep meat for me is cleaning up.  You see, there tends to be a lot of fat. And it's a hard fat--not soft like chicken or pork fat--so when it cools, it's solid and very hard to clean up. You'd better have a lot of really hot water and dish soap ready for cleaning up a meal like this.


Short version: Green chili and ground beef soup, cheese

Long version: I made this soup the day before with about a pound of the ground beef I had thawed that hadn't been cooked yet, in addition to onion, garlic, celery, carrot, chilis, shredded calabacita, frozen peas, and chicken stock. Plus some sour cream at the end, since the chilis ended up being spicier than I expected. As always.

I had also cooked a few extra baked potatoes the night before so I could chop those up and add them to the children's bowls, to make it more filling for them.


Short version: Pork goulash with carrots, mashed potatoes, Holy's cabbage, custard

Long version: Anyone remember Holy's cabbage? Probably not, so here it is. It had been awhile since I made it, and even longer since I had given any to the children. For some reason, I thought none of them liked it much. Turns out, though, that both Cubby and Jack like it quite a bit. Yay.

Charlie was sick and had a sore throat, so he didn't eat anything but the custard. Which is the whole reason I made it. When children are too sick to eat anything else, they will still eat custard. At least, mine will.

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

T.T.: Water Talk

For many people in our neighboring state of Texas, last week was Not A Good Week. No heat, no electricity, no water. 

No good. If that was you, I'm sorry, and I hope things are better now.

Thankfully, we had a very short power outage, and no other inconveniences to speak of.

Well, we did have a very slight inconvenience later in the week, when we got a call from the neighbor who, with her husband, manages the "municipal" water in our ghost-village. Our water system serves all of three households and the post office, and so it's very much a local affair when anything goes wrong.

A pipe to the communal well froze, which required a backhoe to get at the water lines, so it was not a quick fix. Our neighbor called us to let us know that the well tank wasn't filling, and there wasn't a lot of water in it, so until they could fix it, we needed to conserve water.

Got it. A. announced to the household at large that all boys must pee outside until otherwise notified.

The boys are more than happy to do this (there's even a tree over by the barn that they call "the pee tree," for obvious reasons), but toilets are not actually the biggest users of water.

I spent some time figuring out how much the various water-using activities actually use in gallons, and I am now going to share that with you. Just in case you, too, find yourself in the position of needing to conserve water for whatever reason. 

So! The biggest water-hog of all is a full bathtub. That's about 30 gallons. 

A ten-minute shower uses about 20 gallons, depending on the water flow. So any sort of bathing is an easy thing to put on pause if you're trying not to use too much water.

The other big water-user, unsurprisingly, is a washing machine. The average load in a washing machine uses 20 gallons of water.

Clean clothes are THE status symbol of Water Wealth.

So, basically, forget about cleanliness for awhile if you don't have a lot of water to spare.

Except for cleaning your dishes! Surprisingly--to me, anyway--a dishwasher only uses a little over 3 gallons of water for an average cycle. The night we were conserving water, I didn't even have a full dishwasher (a very unusual occurrence for us), and so I just did most of the dishes by hand. 

I had the soapy water in my big stockpot, since I needed to wash it anyway. I rinsed the dishes into that, too, so I could see how much water I used.

It turned out to be just a bit over a gallon. 

This surprised me, because I have seen more than once the assertion that washing dishes in a dishwasher actually uses less water than handwashing. I was always skeptical of that claim, and now I really am. Granted, I didn't wash a full dishwasher's worth of dishes, but even if I had done twice as many dishes, I still would have used only about 2 gallons of water.

Maybe I wash dishes differently than most people? I dunno.


Lastly, those toilets. Unless you have a really, really old toilet--like, from the 1970s or earlier--your toilet probably only uses about a gallon and a half of water for each flush. Reasonable.

So here are my takeaways from this analysis of water use:

1) You can flush a lot of toilets with the water used for one shower.

2) Keeping a clean kitchen is possible with very little water.

3) If you're out of water for awhile, give up on clean clothes and clean bodies. 

4) When you are once again able to use water freely, it will feel very luxurious. And maybe make you feel a little guilty, now that you know just how much water goes into that load of laundry.

I hope you never need to know all this, because it's kind of a bummer to be anxiously watching where every gallon of water goes, but it's good information to know nonetheless.

Happy Tuesday.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Snapshots: Life

Let's start with poor old Samson, shall we? Poor old Samson spent our entire Siberian weather event outside, as he always does, because he has no barn. He has a shed he can go under, which provides a little protection from terrible wind and precipitation, but it's pretty minimal.

Luckily, he carries his own insulation in the form of horse wool.

I did not know horses could grow hair this thick, but he sure does. It's so insulating, he had a layer of rime on it during the worst days that didn't even melt. He looked like an Abominable Snow Horse. It was a good sign, though, because the non-melting layer of rime meant he wasn't losing any body heat through his incredible coat.

Brave horse (minus the rime, because I was not brave enough myself to go out and take a picture of him during the worst of the weather).

The sheep, of course, didn't notice the weather at all. They're wrapped in the equivalent of about a dozen wool sweaters. Nothing can touch them.

Woolly sheep.

The lambs, as we sadly know, had no such natural protection to the cold. But we didn't lose anymore after those first terrible cold, damp days, so we now have four lambs: two girls, two boys.


A. gave Cubby and Charlie permission to carve over the wood box, thereby providing an exception to the rule of no knives or wood inside the house. They were thrilled. The chips mostly stay in the woodbox. It keeps them happy inside when they have to be in here, and, as they say, "Look at all the kindling we're making!"

They were actually supposed to be making little boats for their earplug guys (yes, earplugs are definitely still a big deal in our house), but mostly, they produce wood chips.

And perhaps most exciting of all, look what came up right before the nasty weather and waiting patiently through it all under the snow.

Hello, tiny daffodil. I'm so happy to see you.

We planted thirty daffodils in front of the house in the fall, and they're just starting to push up. Daffodil bulbs are toxic, so they should escape the sad fate of the Very Fancy Tulips that were just too tasty for their own good and were devoured by gophers.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.