Friday, September 10, 2021

Friday Food: Pesto Pizza


Short version: Hamburgers in camp, leftovers and eggs at home

Long version: A. took all four kids camping (although they got rained out and came home around 9 p.m.), so I packed them some pre-made hamburgers to heat up in the fire, plus bread and butter, trail mix, apples, and marshmallows.

I had leftover cabbage and mashed potatoes and cheese with a fried egg.


Short version: Split pea soup, grilled cheese sandwiches

Long version: I'm finally making some headway with the split peas! I figured since it was relatively cool, I could make some soup with some of them. Also, I had a ham bone in the freezer I wanted to use. So I made the soup. 

It was okay. As split pea soup always is. I just can't get into it. Cubby, however, LOVES it, so I pressure-canned the remainder of the double batch I made in pint jars. That way, he can just open one for lunch whenever he wants. And we don't have to slog our way through the leftovers for a week.


Short version: Italian sliders, pasta with pesto, corn on the cob, leftover calabacitas, pots de creme

Long version: I still had about half the ground beef left from when I made hamburgers a few days earlier, which I used to make the sliders. Those are just very small hamburgers with tomato sauce (I used a small container of leftover pizza sauce I had stashed in the freezer, plus some of the pesto I made earlier in the day) and asadero cheese melted on top.

I bought the corn on the cob when I was at the store earlier in the week. It wasn't the freshest corn, but given the fact that we don't live anywhere near corn-growing country, it's the best we were going to get. And the children were very happy with it.

Calvin chose the pots de creme. As he nearly always does on the days when it's his turn to choose.

We took a family outing to the canyon in the afternoon. 

Every outing requires a picnic, be it ever so humble (cheese, crackers, beef jerky, and grapes).


Short version: Barbecue bull sandwiches, carrot sticks with curry dip, applesauce and cream

Long version: I was making bread anyway, so I made some little buns for the bull meat. Also mixed some mayonnaise with curry powder to make the dip for the carrots.

Really going above and beyond with this meal, obviously. Ahem.

The real excitement, though, was the applesauce. There's a tree at an abandoned house in one of the villages that has red apples on it, so we stopped to pick some. Most of the apples here are green, and no good for sauce. I was hoping the red apples would be.

They were, but they were also incredibly wormy. I could only use about a quarter of the apples we picked, but from that I made two quarts of very good applesauce. Good flavor, and I didn't even need to add any maple syrup or anything to sweeten it.

The children were thrilled to have applesauce again, especially with cream for dessert. The boys are old enough to remember the gallons of applesauce I would make every fall in New York, and they miss it. So this was nice for them.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, bacon, corn tortillas with cheese, cucumber spears with ranch dip

Long version: Nah.


Short version: Last-minute pesto pizza, split pea soup, carrot sticks with ranch dip

Long version: This was not my plan for dinner. Because it was a work day for me, my plan had been to make tacos with the leftover pressure-cooked bull meat.


This was also Poppy's very first day of school, ever. And she was feeling maybe a little delicate by the end of a long day. So, to celebrate her first day and make it a little bit special, I made a pizza.

I cut a small loaf of sourdough bread into three slices the long way, then spread those with the pesto I had made a few days earlier, topped it with asadero cheese, and baked it in a pan covered with olive oil. The children were very happy.

A. and I had the soup. It was not as good as the pizza. Of course.


Short version: Steaks, boiled potatoes, steamed carrots and broccoli, brownies

Long version: These are the very last steaks from the steer we got in February from our neighbors. And we ate them on the very day we got another steer for the freezer from a different neighbor. This steer was much bigger, and should last a lot longer than six months.

I used this method for making the vegetables. I considered growing broccoli next year, but the appearance of cabbage loopers on my cabbages has me reconsidering it. I really dislike finding caterpillars in the water when I cook broccoli.

I made the brownies with Poppy and her friend (I'm watching her friend a couple of days a week while her mom is figuring out more-permanent childcare) to celebrate their first day of preschool the day before. I had told Poppy we would have the brownies on the actual first day of school, but that didn't happen. So the next day it was. 

They tasted just as good the day after the first day of preschool.

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

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Remote Living: Sports

After a short lull, there was another question about remote living. Shall we?

An away game three hours away? How exactly does one handle sports in that regard? 

This is a good question, because it really is just that crazy.

Our school is so small that students there actually play football with the school twenty miles away, and even then, it's only six-man football. There just aren't that many schools that play six-man football, so to have any games at all, there is a lot of driving.

Yes, the away games all require over two hours of driving. The game last week was on a Saturday. So they left here at 10:30 a.m. and took the team to lunch before their 4 p.m. game. 

A. went to watch, so he brought Cubby home. They got home around 9 p.m.

I actually took this photo during a different trip, but it illustrates the experience quite well. Minus the darkness and driving rain that caused A. to have to pull over before they got home.

One of their upcoming games is against a school that is over five hours away. For that one, they'll pick a mid-point school to meet at and both teams will travel a couple of hours to play.

Volleyball is also going right now. They have a lot more games--because there are a lot more teams--and they do occasionally need to do things like leave school at 11 a.m. on the day of the game. And there are definitely days they get home very late. 

Although there are club sports for things like Little League, we told our kids that they had to wait to play anything until they were old enough (sixth grade) to play on a school team. Because then the school takes care of transportation. 

We just could not handle driving literally hundreds of miles a week for Little League games and practices. We have too many kids, and that is just too much of a time commitment and disruption in our family life. 

For people who are really into sports, the travel is worth getting their kids involved. We are not those people, however, so school sports it is.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

T.T.: Low-Tech Apple Drying

I suspect this is another one of those posts (like the one about canning bull meat) that will have a very small audience who can actually put it into practice. I mean, unless there are lots of people who live in a very dry place and have an apple tree that produces multitudes of small green apples that are only good for eating fresh or drying.

If that's you, it's your lucky day!

So, when I say only good for eating fresh or drying, I really mean it. These apples--which come from a mature tree next to the casita--are small, green, and dry. In flavor, they resemble something like a Granny Smith. But their texture is nothing like that. They really can't be baked. They just don't get soft. They can be boiled in water and will get sort of soft eventually, but they also get kind of waterlogged and tasteless.

That means anything like applesauce or apple crisps or whatever is definitely out.

However! They are perfect for drying. Because of their low water content, they don't have as much moisture to get rid of as a typical apple. And drying intensifies their flavor. I think they're better dried than fresh.

Lucky for us, we live in a perfect climate for air drying. Strong sun, wind, and low humidity mean that the entire outdoors is a dehydrator most days. All I have to do is prep the apples and get them out there. Over the past two years, I've figured out the fastest way to do this with the least amount of equipment and labor necessary.

Here's how I do it.

I peel the apples first. It's not strictly necessary, but I find the peels to be unpleasantly chewy after they're dried, so even though it makes for a lot more work, I peel them. Because these apples are quite small, I just use my paring knife. Vegetable peelers might work for large apples, but they don't work on small ones.

Small apples are also quite difficult to core without breaking them. So I don't core them. Instead, I just cut thin slices around all four sides of the apple, stopping when I get to the core.

It looks like this:

It may leave a small amount more apple on the core than if the apple had actually been cored, but it's a lot faster to do it this way.

I lay the slices out in a single layer on my baking pans. 

Small children can help with this, but be advised that they will eat as they go, so more apples will be required.

As you can see, these apples definitely discolor quickly. I could add lemon juice or Fruit Fresh or something to them to keep them white, but since I don't care if my dried apples are brown, I don't bother.

I have two half-sheet pans and one slightly smaller pan. I can fill all three pans in about half an hour.

After the pans are all ready, I bring them outside and arrange them on the hood of the car.

Out of reach of children, chickens, and dogs.

Why the hood of a car? Well, besides the aforementioned reason of keeping the drying apples safe from marauding animals and small humans, the car is always in the sun. Also, the dark color of the Honda increases the temperature under the pans.

You can see that I cover the pans. I do this because flies would be ALL OVER them if I didn't. You can sterilize the apples after they're dried by putting them in a low oven for a certain amount of time, but there would still be little black spots all over them from the flies. I find this highly unappetizing, so I cover the pans.

I use a length of muslin the MiL sent me, because that's what I have. Cheesecloth is better--thinner, with tiny holes for air flow--but I didn't have any. I use clothespins to clip the cloth to the pans, otherwise the wind will blow the cloth up at some point and then the flies are an issue again.

On a really warm, dry day--above 90 degrees--these will dry completely in about twelve hours. Most days this time of year are not that warm, so they get mostly dry in one day, then I bring them in overnight to keep the night moisture off of them, then put them back out for a few hours in the morning. 

Because they shrink as they dry, the next morning I can combine the almost-dry apples in one pan and re-fill the other pans with fresh apple slices. I do this every day that we have good weather. 

When they're all the way dry, they're flexible and bendy, with no moisture left in them. Like fruit leather, but in slices.

The finished product next to the original form.

A full batch of the three pans will almost fill a quart jar with apple slices. If they're all the way dry, they can just be put in a jar with a lid and stuck in the pantry. They will last indefinitely that way. Except not in our house, because we eat them very quickly. They're so good, and so easy to grab.

This is not something I would do if I were buying apples, but since I have all these free apples literally just lying on the ground and I have to find some way of preserving them, I spend a couple of weeks every fall drying apples.

There you have it! The next time you find yourself with a load of free apples that will not get soft when cooked and the autumn sun is glaring down on you, you know what to do.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Monday Bouquets: Labor Day Flowers

I enjoyed having the tiny arrangements on the table for awhile, and I think they must last longer. The small one of sunflowers and sage I had on the table last week stayed there until Friday. 

So I only have one other one to show you, and for that one, I went back to the more dramatic--and much taller--milk bottle arrangement.

The sunflowers and sage are all grown up. And mixing with some dry grass heads.

Those grass seed heads are definitely a harbinger of fall. The days of flowers on the table are limited. I'll enjoy it while I can.

I hope you have a lovely Monday, with or without flowers.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Snapshots: A Mix of Pretty and . . . Not

Let's pretend this is Instagram and start with pretty, shall we?


First light is the best light.

And on a much less aesthetically pleasing note . . .

When I say I'm "picking meat," this is what I mean. 

Three chicken carcasses pressure-cooked into stock, then dog scraps in the skillet, meat for us in the Pyrex measurer, and bones/trash in the Pyrex pan. About half an hour of work. Tedious, but necessary to use every bit of those meat birds.

I don't know who set up this scene in Calvin and Jack's room, but it certainly is carefully staged.

We can all be glad that T-Rexes are extinct.

Let's end with something less grisly.

A tiny chef works.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.