Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday Food: Full-time and Not Loving It

Another full work week. I don't know when the other teacher's aide is going to be able to work again, but I guess the school year is over in three weeks anyway, so the end is in sight in one way or another.


Short version: Quickie stir-fry, rice, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Long version: I spent a lot of time this day doing a lot of things other than cooking--mostly laundry and garden things--and we ate early so A. could take Cubby and Calvin camping/turkey hunting. So I went with the path of least resistance. Two bags of stir-fry vegetables, a quart jar of canned bull meat, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger powder, garlic powder, peanut butter, done.

After the hunting party left, the remaining two children helped me make cookies. They each had two cookies for their dinner. There has to be some compensation to not going camping.

Pause for a random photo!

This is my brother in Tucson, who completely unconsciously assumed the pose of Rodin's "The Thinker." But with clothes. Good thing, given the wide variety of thorny things in the Sonoran Desert.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, baked beans, leftover rice, cucumbers with salt and vinegar, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Long version: I canned more pinto beans this day, and had some beans that I had quick-soaked and needed to cook. So I cooked them (allll the way with nothing but salt and water, because I can learn), then dumped them in a casserole dish with a few slices of crumbled bacon, ketchup, mustard, vinegar, and maple syrup. Three out of four children gave them the thumbs up. The fourth child doesn't really like baked beans, so I didn't worry about him.

Our priest has decided to have the last Mass of the month at our church on Saturday afternoon, which means once a month we don't have to wake up early to get to an 8 a.m. Mass. It also means I let the kids have the rest of the cookies on Saturday, since that was technically our church day ,and church days are for homemade desserts.


Short version: Pot roast and beef ribs with green garlic puree, garlic bread, roasted peppers and onions, pureed calabaza, raw tomatoes, marshmallows with or without peanut butter

Long version: In the morning I put a chuck roast and two beef ribs in my enameled dutch oven with some diced onion from the freezer, tomatoes, and bay leaves, and cooked that until it was done.

At dinnertime, I pulled the meat off the bone and mixed it with some green garlic puree I made with, well, green garlic.

Green garlic is just like green onions, but, obviously, it's garlic, not onions. We have volunteer garlic eeeeeverywhere, and A. told me anything outside his main garlic plantation is fair game for early harvesting. So I dug up all of the garlic around my lettuce box and used that for this meal.

Green garlic before cleaning.

I put the cleaned garlic, greens and all, in the food processor with enough olive oil to make it smooth and processed it into a puree. The resulting puree was a startlingly bright green.

It looked kind of like if Slimer got liquefied.

It was very tasty with the meat, despite its unsettling appearance.

I mostly gave the kids a marshmallow each because I needed something to bribe Calvin and Jack so I could cut their nails without too much drama. A. introduced the children to the concept of marshmallows with peanut butter, which I had never heard of before. Jack and Poppy prefer the marshmallows with the peanut butter, the other two prefer their marshmallows plain.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, leftover rice, pinto beans, frozen peas

Long version: Some scrambled eggs with cheese and salsa (fiesta eggs!), some plain. A good, quick after-work dinner.


Short version: Ground beef tacos, pinto beans, leftover cucumber slices, pureed squash, chocolate chip cookie bars

Long version: The fastest taco meat I could make was browned ground beef, some of the Slimer green garlic puree, the last few tomatoes in the can in the refrigerator mashed up, salsa, chili powder, cumin, and vinegar.

The pinto beans were even faster. Pressure-canning pinto beans so they're ready to eat is one of the best new things I've started doing.

And why did we have a dessert on a random Tuesday night? Because I offered to bring in a treat for the elementary kids who are doing their state testing. They're all kind of nervous about it. Nothing like a homemade baked treat to calm the nerves.

Last week, Cubby's class had the science portion, and I made them blueberry muffins.

This week, it's both Cubby's and Calvin's classes for language and math on Wednesday and Thursday. Thus, chocolate chip cookie bars. Waaaay faster than actual cookies. It took all of ten minutes to get these in the oven.

Anyway. When I cut them up, I had 18 bars so the 9 students testing could have one after each session of their test Wednesday, and then exactly 4 left over. And how many children do I have? Right. And every single child was extremely surprised and thrilled when I called them in to the kitchen before bed and presented them with such an unexpected treat.

It's fun to be indulgent sometimes.


Short version: Steaks, pasta, green salad with ranch dressing, pureed calabaza

Long version: When I give the instructions for our cow at the butcher, I always ask for the steaks to be cut one inch thick. That's pretty thin, but the benefit of that is that they cook quickly. So steak is a fast food. Of the most delicious sort.

We have discovered that our children prefer their steak pretty rare. So I endeavor to keep the steaks about medium-rare to medium. I'm accustomed to cooking meat more well done, but I do my best.

The pasta for the kids had butter, cream cheese, and some of the Slimer garlic. I also put some of the Slimer garlic on the steaks for the adults. Handy stuff.

I did not measure when I made the ranch dressing because I was just trying to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible, but I promise I remember your request for a recipe, Linda. Maybe next time.


Short version: Leftovers, scrambled eggs

Long version: Cubby and Jack had leftover stir-fry and rice.

Calvin and Poppy had scrambled eggs in corn tortillas with cheese. And still-frozen peas on the side.

A. and I had scrambled eggs with bacon and cream cheese, and pureed calabaza.

This all cleared out the refrigerator in a very satisfactory way.

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

An Architectural Affront

That's what I thought about that house that I posted on Sunday and asked your opinions on.

I'm not given to really strong statements like that. Generally speaking, I'm pretty chill about doing what works for you. But that house? That house actually upset me.

Here's why.

It is a house that is aggressively out of place in its natural environment. It's a dark concrete house in a desert. There is no desert culture on Earth that has ever lived in a dark dwelling. And why is that? Because the house will absorb the excessive sunlight and be unlivable.

Unless, of course, a person plans to spend all of his or her time at home in air conditioning. Which I must assume the dweller of this house will, seeing as there are no windows to open on the front of the house. Those dark squares are actually garage doors.

There are a (very) few windows, but they're all around back. And it doesn't look as if they are able to be opened, anyway.

Do you see something else that's missing here on the front of the house?

There is no obvious door on the street side of the house. Plus there's an industrial-looking gate to block vehicle access from the street. All of which means that this is a house where visitors are not only not welcomed, but actively repelled.

So the builder of this house chose to build a house that thumbs its nose (so to speak) not only at the natural environment around it, but at the community in which it is located. And by so doing, has rejected the collective inherited knowledge and cooperation that has allowed humans to survive in all sorts of environments for centuries.

Am I reading too much into a house? Probably. Most likely whoever designed and commissioned this house didn't think about these things at all. (Which is its own problem, honestly.)

So now you know why I had such a strong reaction to this house. At least I know what I would never build myself given unlimited funds and the opportunity.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

T.T.: Consider the Crepe

Like many families, we have a tradition of various pancakes or waffles topped with butter and maple syrup on Sundays. It's the after-church second breakfast/treat for our children. 

Over the years, we've done sourdough waffles, buckwheat pancakes or waffles, regular (all-purpose flour) waffles or pancakes, and a type of johnnycake with cornmeal made in pancake form that my children call Fudge Bunnies (long story).

But right now, the winner is crepes a la Daddy, and I consider this to be a really good option.  Here's why.

Standard all-purpose flour pancakes or waffles are really not very good nutritionally. Making those and then covering them in syrup is more or less like eating dessert in the morning. Not that I am opposed to that for children occassionally, but on a more regular basis, I prefer to give my kids something a bit more nutrient-dense as their maple syrup vehicle.

Buckwheat flour is a pretty good option, as it has a higher protein content than wheat flour and doesn't result in quite as much of a sugar spike and crash. We used buckwheat flour regularly when we lived in New York--where buckwheat flour is still grown and available locally--but ordering it here is much more expensive.

Crepes are something A. used to make sometimes, because he prefers them to regular pancakes himself. A crepe, if you didn't know, is a very, very thin type of pancake. The traditional French recipes--I think, although of course I'm not French--include more eggs and milk than flour, and no sugar. This is the type of crepe A. makes. The ratio of protein-heavy ingredients to flour makes for a much more filling breakfast, without so much of a carbohydrate hit. 

As a bonus, the crepes don't soak in the syrup like regular pancakes do, so you use a lot less of the syrup.

Maple syrup is obviously not French and is not a traditional topping for crepes, which are supposed to be rolled up around something like jam or sweetened fruits. However, my kids are accustomed to maple syrup and the crepes are our substitute for the more traditional pancakes, so I just serve them like pancakes.

So are you ready to make some crepes? Good! Here's the recipe straight from the horse's mouth. The horse in this case being A.

That didn't sound right.

Anyway. Here's what he does.

Crepes a la Daddy


8 eggs

2.5 cups milk, plus more if needed

2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

butter for the cooking


Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. The batter should be very thin, about the consistency of heavy cream. If it's not that thin, add more milk until it is. 

If possible, let the batter rest for awhile in the refrigerator, even overnight, but you can cook them immediately. 

Put a small piece of butter in a very large skillet--A. uses our 14-inch cast-iron skillet--and heat over medium-high heat until the butter is starting to brown a bit. The skillet should be non-stick. Either an actual non-stick skillet, or a very well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. 

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour batter into the hot pan and tilt the pan around to spread the batter out very thinly. Cook until the bottom of the crepe has brown spots all over, then flip with a spatula. Be careful when you flip--these are delicate and can tear pretty easily. 

A. tells me that when he makes the crepes with store-bought eggs, they are much more tender and harder to roll up without tearing. The eggs from our chickens make a crepe that holds together better, I guess.

Cook until brown on the other side, then transfer to a plate and keep in a warm oven as you cook the rest of the crepes.

There are hundreds of filling options for crepes. When I ate them, I preferred sour cream and jam. My children, of course, prefer butter and maple syrup. 

Because these have no sugar, they could also be used with savory fillings, though I've never tried that.

Let's close this out with some crepe beauty shots that I captured while the master was at work.

Pour . . .

Tilt . . .


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Snapshots: Tomatoes!

We'll start right off with the big excitement: There are tomatoes in the ground. Outside.

Specifically, there are 25 tomato plants outside under milk cartons.

It's a bit shocking how quickly I can accumulate 25 milk cartons.

The milk cartons are essential, because we are definitely not past our last freeze date. Just ask the poor asparagus.

Bowed and defeated.

When I went out last week and saw the asparagus hanging like that, I have to admit I stood there staring at them for more than a minute, puzzling over what could have happened to them. After a couple of minutes, I had the very delayed lightbulb realization: "Oh yeah. It was 25 degrees last night. They froze."

Bummer. I'm sure the roots are okay. At least, I hope they are.
Switching topics . . . we're going to be in Tucson in June for my brother-in-law's memorial service. Since all six of us are going, we have to take the dogs with us. These are not dogs that will be okay in a kennel. They will not be okay if we are not here. So they have to come with us. 

I thought two adults, four children, and two feral dogs might be a bit much at my parents' house, where my brother and his family will be, as well as my sister and niece. It seemed wise for us to find our own lodgings. 

So to Airbnb I went, for the first time in my life. I found a very cool house to rent--a ranch house on 15 acres, no less--but completing the transaction required me to take a photo for the host to view. To make sure I'm a real person, I guess.

So then I had to have A. take my picture, which does not ever happen. So it's a photo of me definitely in my natural state. Although I did remove my dirty fleece and take my hair out of its very messy bun.

It doesn't matter what I look like, though, because I have the world's cutest accessory on my hip.

Who could resist renting a house to that face? (I refer to Poppy's face, of course, not mine.)

Speaking of Tucson, on one of our daily walks around my parents' neighborhood when I was there a couple of weeks ago, we saw this house being built. I had an immediate and visceral reaction to it, but I won't tell you what it was, because I'm interested to hear what your immediate reaction to it might be.

First thing you think when you see this: GO.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.