Friday, October 29, 2021

Friday Food: Hospitable Leftovers


Short version: Leftover taco meat and cheese, guacamole, tortilla chips, carrot sticks

Long version: I was going to make flour tortillas to make up for the fact that this was like the fifth day out of six that we had some version of ground beef. But then I found we still had some tortilla chips my sister had brought. 

Everything is better with chips. And I didn't have to make them. Hurray.

All I did was heat up the meat with some shredded cheese and let the kids scoop that up with the chips. They also got some guacamole made from another giant avocado.

That's a "large" egg for scale. Is that not the most obscenely large avocado you've ever seen?


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

Long version: Time for a beef break. Two big cans of tuna made into patties (bread crumbs, eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, pepper, dill) made for a welcome change. 


Short version: Beef fajitas, more guacamole, leftover black beans, calabaza, chocolate pudding

Long version: Back to the beef. Fajitas are delicious, though. 

A. cut up the largest of his calabaza squashes and I cooked and pureed the large quantity of flesh that came from it. It ended up being about six quarts of squash.

As A. is so fond of saying, there's a lot of food value in those calabazas.

Most of it went in the freezer, but I did serve some with dinner. I put about a tablespoon on each child's plate, as I always do with the first calabaza of the fall. Just in case they've changed their minds about hating it. 

Two of them feigned death by squash, one grudgingly admitted it wasn't bad, and one asked for more. I'll take it.

A. learned from one of the elderly ladies in the village that when she was a girl they would cook the halves of the calabazas, then season the cooked squash like pumpkin pie with spices and brown sugar, put it back in the scooped out skins, and bake it some more, finally topping it with cream.

The skins are very hard and maintain their shape even after long cooking, so I can see how that would work.

A perfect baking vessel.

Delicious as that sounds, I went with the less traditional chocolate pudding for our Sunday dessert. Mostly because I had some milk I needed to use up quickly, but also because everyone likes pudding. The same cannot be said for calabaza.


Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, lentils, rice, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: It had been awhile since I had gotten any sausage from Sysco, so I got some. And then I decided I should cook some of the half-gallon jar of lentils that have been in my pantry for several weeks. So I cooked those on Sunday--onion, garlic, tomato, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar--in anticipation of making the sausage after work on Monday. Lentils and sausage go together.

Surprisingly, everyone enjoyed the lentils. I was not expecting that, but I was pleased by it.


Short version: Shepherd's pie, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: I needed to make something for a family that is moving, because that is what I do when I know of a family with small children who are in the miserable state of flux that is moving all earthly possessions. At such times, fully-prepared food is the greatest gift. At least, it's what I would have most wanted when I was in the middle of the combined mess of little kids and packing.

So I made two shepherd's pies: One for us, one for them.

I have no idea if that family likes shepherd's pie, but mine sure does. Calvin even had thirds.


Short version: Beef and rice soup, cheese, bread and butter

Long version: I spent most of Tuesday in the kitchen. The eventual output of that day was two shepherd's pies, a dozen cookies for Poppy's preschool Halloween party, six quarts of pressure-canned beef stock, and beef soup made from the same stock and the beef rib meat from the ribs I used to make the stock.

I was really sick of the kitchen by the end of the day, but very glad Wednesday that I had made the effort to have soup already prepared and ready to be re-heated at the end of a workday.


Short version: Leftovers, shrimp, garlic bread, cabbage, roasted tomatoes, calabaza, leftover dessert

Long version: Crazy day, culminating in my parents arriving at dinnertime. I knew my mother would be bringing a ton of food for my refrigerator, which was full of leftovers. I also knew none of my children would be particularly hungry after their Halloween parties at school.

So I served leftovers for dinner. I am the consummate hostess. But hey! My parents had never had any of that food before, so it wasn't leftovers for them.

I put out beef soup, fajita meat, tuna salad, lentils, pureed calabaza, Holy's cabbage, tomatoes I had roasted while I was baking bread, garlic bread, and pureed calabaza I pulled from the freezer. Plus some shrimp my mom had brought. 

And then there were the leftover brownies and chocolate chip cookies I had brought in for class parties.

I still ended up putting a lot of things back into the refrigerator, though. Everyone needs to eat more.

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

T.T.: Halloween Compensation

This week, as I'm sure you all know, is the week leading up to Halloween on Sunday. And I'm also sure all my fellow parents know that this means a veritable tidal wave of sugar will wash over your children.

It's inevitable. In addition to the actual day of Halloween, there are class parties and community parties and random adults who happen to have a stash of candy on hand that they will pass out with abandon to any children they come across.

I accept this, but I do my best to mitigate the sugar intake in my own home. Because that's the only place I can control it.

That means that for the week leading up to and at least part of the week after Halloween, there is as little additional sugar in my children's food as I can reasonably manage. They don't regularly eat a lot of sweet things, but I avoid even things like oatmeal for breakfast (maple syrup) or yogurt (also maple syrup) or Ovaltine in their hot milk or cornbread with dinner (they eat it with honey). 

Cinnamon toast will also have to wait.

I do this around every holiday that results in an avalanche of sweet treats at school. So Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter . . . It's kind of like a mini Lenten sugar fast every time in our house. I announce it to the children so they know why I'm saying no to graham crackers with peanut butter, and they actually accept the logic of this.

All I'm really trying to do is average out the amount of sweet stuff they get in that short period of time so that it stays within a relatively reasonable range. I do this by limiting them at home, so when they're somewhere I can't limit them at all, the average is still okay.

So! If you also have children who are being inundated with sugar at school or elsewhere*, try to mitigate the sugar damage at home, so they can enjoy themselves elsewhere.

* This is also applicable, of course, to adults who have periods of time at work or parties or whatever when unhealthy foods abound. I'm thinking here of my sister, who is a veterinarian and told me she is absolutely buried under sweets and treats during the holidays, when every client expresses their appreciation for the vet clinic with something containing sugar.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Monday Bouquets: Exotic Visitors

When my sister comes to visit us, she always stops at the grocery store in the city she flies into before she drives to our house. And she always gets flowers. She knows I love flowers.

This time, she got flowers for both the birthday girl and for me. So that is why I have a completely different arrangement on my table right now.

Bet you didn't see these coming.

The contrast between these and my own arrangement that I took off the table was pretty funny.

A study in contrasts.

Those grocery store flowers last an incredibly long time, but not as long as my own dried arrangement of fall plants. So I still have my Halloween flowers on the windowsill. They will patiently outwait the beautiful but ultimately doomed interlopers and then resume their place in the center of the table.

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

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Snapshots: Bulbs and Bows

A few weeks ago, A. told me, "I ordered you some spring bulbs to plant."

Having been married to him for 18 years now, I knew what that meant.

"How many?" I asked with justifiable suspicion.

"Oh, around a hundred."

They came last week. There were more like 230*. I KNEW IT.

Needless to say, I was not going to be planting all of those myself.

So I took my digging machine out (A., who is as close to a machine with a shovel as it is possible for a human to be) and we planted all of them in about an hour.

We had help, of course.

Although, as always with children, that should be "help."

Poppy found her own shovel and asked for a bulb to plant by herself.

I happened to have one to spare.

If you look closely, you can see that hard-working digger up there has some pretty fancy hair decorations. One of her birthday requests was hairbows. Sparkly, rainbow hairbows, just like her friend's. I submitted this request to my mother, and the birthday girl duly received a package of six hairbows.

No sparkles, but certainly her favorite colors.

I must admit, by the way, that as the mother of boy after boy, I sort of rolled my eyes at the idea of things like pink and purple hairbows. And now I love them, because honestly, they are JUST SO CUTE. 

Lastly, would it be a Snapshots post without some photos of my morning walk? No. 

But honestly, would you look at that sky?

And just for fun, let's see what was behind me to the east.

The lingering moon, of course.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.

* I am now going to list every kind of bulb we planted, in the hopes that I'll be able to identify them when they start coming up in the very random places I planted them: many assorted tulips, some mixed daffodils, Dutch iris, Muscari Armeniacum, mixed allium, mixed crocuses, mixed anemone blanda, grape hyacinths, windflowers, and Glory of the Snow.