Friday, March 12, 2021

Friday Food: Homemade Dog Food? Yup


Short version: Tuna melt sandwiches, carrot sticks with ranch dip

Long version: A. finally managed to catch the owner of the tiny store in the village when he was there (I struck out at least twice last week trying to get eggs), and found that he had a bag of carrots in his cooler. Hooray!

You don't know how exciting carrots can be until you live 60 miles from the nearest produce department.

So the kids had carrot sticks with their sandwiches.

I had the very last of the somewhat sad-looking lettuce with my tuna salad, along with grated carrots (hooray again!) and cheese. 

Adventure Girl, ready to go to the neighbor's canyon with Daddy and her brothers. I stayed home and watched Pretty Woman. Because I wanted to. So there.


Short version: Cheese pizza and frozen peas for the kids, randomness in a pot for the adults

Long version: I had half a can of tomatoes in the refrigerator, a large block of asadero cheese (our substitute for mozzarella) in the refrigerator, and I was making bread. Sounds like pizza to me.

I only made one, but since A. and I didn't eat any, it was just enough for the children. They had the still-frozen peas as their appetizer. I do this a lot when whatever they're having for dinner doesn't lend itself to a separate vegetable. I suppose I could have put the peas on the pizza (or the exciting carrots), but I think there would have been some strong pushback on that.

I made the pizza sauce entirely in the microwave by simply mashing the tomatoes with my potato masher, adding salt, pepper, dried onion flakes, garlic powder, and dried basil, and microwaving it uncovered until the liquid was reduced. Cubby said it was the best pizza he'd ever had, so maybe I should do it that way from now on.

The randomness I made for A. and me was a soup that consisted of pressure-canned bull meat, the juice and a few of the tomatoes from a can, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, the last cup of mashed squash in the refrigerator, a can of green beans (from commodities that one of our neighbors gave us), and some of the dried lamb's quarters that I dry every spring and store in the pantry in a quart jar for the inevitable Lean Vegetable Times.

The only purchased ingredients in that soup were the onion, celery, the few tomatoes, and carrots. And it was surprisingly good.

Cheap eats 'R' us.


Short version: Rib steaks, fried potatoes, frozen peas, dry chocolate cake with maple whipped cream

Long version: I don't usually fry potatoes, but I didn't get cooking early enough to make roasted potatoes. If only I had known Karen.'s tip about pre-cooking in the microwave. So instead I cut the potatoes thinly and fried them. They were popular.

Poppy had requested chocolate cake for Sunday dessert, and I agreed because it was my dad's birthday. Not that he was here to eat it with us, but the children were happy to eat his share.

Unfortunately, just as I put the cake in the oven, I asked the children if they wanted to play The Game of Life. An old version of it--based on the clothing of the family on the box, I'm guessing 1980s--was given to me by a retired teacher at the school.

Had I ever played this game before, I would never have suggested it to the children. It's like Monopoly; it goes forevvver. And there's all this money and math involved, so I had to be the banker.

In all the excitement (ahem), I forgot about the cake, so it baked about twenty minutes longer than it should have.

It didn't burn, but it was a bit dry. So instead of frosting, I whipped cream with maple syrup and broke the cake up into pieces so I could cover them in the whipped cream. Then I made the children sing Happy Birthday to my dad before I let them eat the cake.

So much of parenting relies on bribery. (The naked piece was for Poppy, who does not like whipped cream. I know.)


Short version: Bunless (oven!) cheeseburgers, corn muffins, frozen peas

Long version: I used this recipe for the corn muffins. It's one I first saw on the NYT website, and, it being the NYT, it immediately disappeared behind a paywall. Annoying. 

There were other places online that listed just the ingredients, and I could still make it without the actual instructions, but it was nice to suddenly find that someone had written out the whole thing and posted it.

Since the oven was on anyway for the muffins, I wanted to try cooking the hamburgers on a pan in the oven. I reeeeeallly hate frying them on the stove. Such a mess, and I have to use two pans to fit all the ones we eat. And even then, people sometimes want more. This is not a problem that's going to get better as the children get bigger, so I figured I needed to find a way to cook larger quantities in the oven.

I have a propane stove, and the broilers are terrible on those. The broiler is in a drawer at floor-level, so I have to literally lie down on the floor to see inside when I'm broiling. The heat source is this little strip of weak flame right in the center of the bottom of the oven, not coils that cover the whole top surface of the oven. 

So what I did was, put the half-sheet pan of hamburgers in the 425 degree oven while the muffins were baking, to get mostly cooked. Then, when the muffins were done and the hamburgers had shrunk some, I pushed them into the center of the pan and stuck them under the broiler. After that, I turned the broiler off and melted the cheese on the hamburgers by moving them back into the still-hot oven.

It worked. I wouldn't say it was easier, but I can cook more and it's a heck of a lot cleaner.


Short version: More steak, fried bull meat, garlic bread, pinto beans, carrot sticks with ranch dip

Long version: There were three steaks left, which is not enough for everyone. So I fried the other half of the bull meat left in the jar after I had made the random soup earlier in the week.

I also cooked a LOT of pinto beans this day. I still have ridiculous quantities of dried pinto beans taking up space in my pantry--I'm talking like 30 pounds--so I decided to put my pressure canner to work on them.

A nice thing about pressure canning beans is that they don't have to be cooked before they get put in the jars and canned. They do have to be pre-soaked, but the actual cooking happens in the jars during the canning. I can fit 14 pint jars in my giant pressure-canner, but the pot I used to soak the beans only held enough beans for 12 pints. 

That's still a lot of beans.

And then! Since the pot I had used to soak the beans wasn't really dirty, I decided to go ahead and cook yet another pot of beans, just on the stove.

Altogether, I got about four quarts of dried beans out of my pantry. But there are plenty more where those came from.


Short version: Bull and sauerkraut, rice, steamed carrots and broccoli

Long version: And then, since I still had the pressure canner out in the kitchen, I went ahead and pressure canned another seven quarts of bull meat. I took out too much meat to defrost, though, so I used the bag labeled "loin steaks" for dinner.

I used every method of tenderizing available to me. I marinated them, pounded them with my heavy rolling pin, and braised them in sauerkraut and onions for about three hours.

It turned out well, but man, conquering that bull meat definitely takes some effort.

I had made the rice in the morning for the dogs. See, we ran out of dog food on Tuesday, with no opportunity to get more until A. goes to pick up the van from the mechanic. Whenever that may be. But it's not as if we're lacking in meat and rice, which are main ingredients in a lot of homemade dog food. 

So I made the pot of rice, and then they've been getting liver, bull scraps I trimmed off while preparing for canning, and some of the nasty pre-cooked hamburger patties from the giant bag the school cook gave us before Thanksgiving.

Those dogs are living the high life, and will probably not be enthused about the reappearance of kibble. 

They'd better not get too used to it. I do enough cooking just for the people of the household. I don't need to add to my kitchen time by preparing custom dog food.


Short version: Various foods

Long version: I used the pot of beans I cooked on Tuesday to make chili with some ground beef. This was a taste of my childhood; we always had beans and ground beef in our chili.

Cubby ate his chili over rice. The other three children had it as tacos with corn tortillas and cheese. And, thanks to A.'s trip to the grocery store, there was avocado for the top, which is always appreciated.

My current refrigerator looks a lot different than last week's refrigerator. 

Last week's refrigerator. (A. also got a new lightbulb for me to replace the one that burned out last week, so it's not only fuller, but brighter.)

A., who doesn't eat beans, had the last of the leftover steak and some leftover cooked carrots.

The dogs had rice, bull scraps, liver, and some canned tomato soup we got from a neighbor that I offered the children for lunch and they refused to eat. After one taste, Cubby said, "You can give this to the dogs." So I did. The dogs didn't refuse it.

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

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

T.T.: Baked Potatoes, Now With Half the Baking Time!

A little bit of trivia for you: My favorite TV chef of all time is Jacques Pepin*. He's had various cooking shows on PBS over the years. Probably the most famous one was the show he did with Julia Child. I bought the companion book for that show--Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, in case you need the title--out of the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble maaaany years ago now. And this tip comes from that book. 

It's a way to bake potatoes without having to keep them in the oven for hours.

Okay, so it doesn't take hours to bake potatoes, but it always takes a LOT longer than I think it will. I could never get the timing right on baked potatoes. Half the time they weren't quite done when the rest of dinner was. Or I would forget to put them in over an hour before dinnertime and give up on the idea of baked potatoes entirely. It was annoying.

But with this tip, you can put them in the oven only half an hour before you want to eat, and they will be ready. 

Jacques Pepin said that he learned this from his wife. And what she does is stick the potatoes in the microwave for a few minutes before putting them in the oven.

This is brilliant because, of course, potatoes cooked entirely in the microwave have a bit of a gummy, dense texture. It's just not right. But if you just do some partial cooking in the microwave, and then finish them in the oven, they have the right texture and the crisp skin a baked potato should have, but in waaaay less time.

You need a microwave to do this, obviously. If you don't have one, I am sorry. If you DO have one, just scrub your potatoes, stab them a few times with a knife to prevent potato explosions, and pre-cook them in the microwave on high. 

If you're cooking only one or two potatoes, they would only need about about a minute and a half in the microwave. For four or five potatoes, you need more like three and a half minutes.

Then you just put the potatoes in the oven and finish baking them in there at 350 degrees or so, 20-30 minutes depending on how big your potatoes are. 

Ta da!

I don't have any photos of potatoes to put here, but you know what baked potatoes look like, right? Right.

So here. Have a sunrise instead.

As viewed through the frame of our front gate.

And that's it! 

Have a nice Tuesday.

* He wrote a memoir several years ago that I recommend to everyone. It's The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. He had an interesting life, and it's a very entertaining book.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Snapshots: Spring Things

Another week, another chance to share random photos!

Last Wednesday was Wacky Wednesday at school, and the kids were invited to "dress wackily." Somewhat surprisingly, every one of the boys elected to do this and came up with their own outfits. 

Not all of them elected to be in the photo I wanted to take of them, though. Only Cubby and Poppy, who of course insisted on dressing like her brothers.


Cubby is wearing a cape he made out of a ripped pair of jeans, and duct tape all over. Poppy has long johns under shorts, and three pigtails, although only the two are visible here.

Cameo by Jasper.

Nothing and no one gets by The Sentinel.

We had a big garden day yesterday. A. dug up a couple more beds for me so I could plant snow peas and spinach. Then I dug up the last of the small fall-planted carrots. I wasn't sure how they had fared in the ground when it froze, but they were just fine.

Tiny, but tasty.

After doing the outside stuff, I started planting more seeds for the indoor grow box.

With help, of course, from my lovely assistant.

It's possible I went a bit overboard.

12 Roma tomatoes, 8 Stupice tomatoes, 5 Black Krim tomatoes, 5 Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, 17 basil, 6 Chablis bell peppers, and 4 Alma paprika peppers. Whew.

Also, there was a lot of laundry.

Is there such a thing as too many clothesline photos? Not around here.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.