Friday, November 19, 2021

Friday Food: Zooming into Thanksgiving Break

We've been Zooming all over the house* this week for school. Which is why our dinner table looks like this for most of the day:

This clutter is one of my least-favorite things about Zoom schooling. 

But don't worry! I managed to clear it off every night so we could actually eat. And here is what we ate.


Short version: Split pea soup, fresh bread and butter

Long version: I brought home a bunch of leftover sliced ham from the school cafeteria earlier in the week, and Cubby immediately said, "Oh yay! Now you can make split pea soup."

Well, yes. I suppose I can.

Except I ran out of onions. 

Luckily, Miss Amelia had an extra onion, and she was happy to share one with me. In return, she got a jar of split pea soup. 

I made it too thin to start with, though, so the next day I cooked more split peas and added those to the soup to thicken it up. That made Cubby happier. He did not approve of the thin split pea soup.

I had made garlic bread along with the regular bread earlier in the day, but the kids ate it all in the afternoon. So then they had regular bread with their dinner.


Short version: Spaghetti and meatballs, frozen peas, leftover squash

Long version: It had been a long time since I had made spaghetti and meatballs. I had roasted a pan of garden tomatoes and a couple of heads of garlic the day before while I was baking bread, so I pureed that in the food processor with dried basil and balsamic vinegar for the spaghetti sauce. 

Happy children.


Short version: Roast beef, pita bread, hummus, tomatoes, arugula, frozen peas, brownies

Long version: This all started when I made hummus over the weekend with two of the fifteen cans of chickpeas I have.

Yes, fifteen. Chickpeas are a very common commodities item.


My mom had brought us lemons when she came, and I had ordered some tahini, so I made hummus. I enlisted Cubby, Jack, and Poppy to help me take the skins off the chickpeas, which, yes, sounds ridiculous but does actually result in some stellar hummus.

The hummus gave me the idea for something like gyros. And I was making bread the next day anyway. So I used some of the sourdough to make pita breads

I don't have any lamb at the moment, but I marinated a beef tri-tip roast in olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and garlic, then seared that, sliced it thin, and put it back in the skillet to cook a bit more.

Some of the last of the slowly ripening garden tomatoes from the counter, some of the volunteer arugula, and woah, that is some good food.

Kind of a pain rolling out and cooking all that pita, but undeniably delicious.


Short version: Fried canned pork, oven fries, sauerkraut, leftover peas

Long version: Another common commodities item is canned pork. That's why I had five 1-pound cans of it.

This sounds extremely unappealing, but it's actually just meat and salt. The only downside to it is that the texture is unfortunately very much like dog food. As is all all canned meat.

Tastes fine, though. Particularly if it's fried in chicken fat and bacon grease with salt, garlic powder, and paprika until it gets crispy. And especially if it's served with french fries.

We were pretty low on vegetables by this night, which is why I decided the time had come to open a jar of sauerkraut. This is just the sort of situation for which I can sauerkraut in the summer.

Plus, sauerkraut and pork is just tasty.


Short version: Sausage and rice skillet

Long version: I took out some of the cheap Sysco breakfast sausage with no clear idea of what I was going to do with it.

I ended up making a Signature Skillet Meal. Which means I made it up.

So! First I cooked some basmati rice in tomato juice, because Miss Amelia gave me a half-gallon of tomato juice that she presumably got from commodities.

Then I browned the sausage and added a couple of cloves of minced garlic, then about a cup of chopped arugula from the pretty big bag of it I had harvested before the deep freeze on Wednesday. Then I mixed in the rice and about a cup of cheese. Mostly pepperjack, and a little cheddar, because that's all I had.

And everyone LOVED this. They all took seconds.

I just never know with this crowd.


Short version: Italian stew meat, pasta, fried mushrooms and arugula, carrot sticks

Long version: I took out stew meat, once again with no plan. I seared it and then added a whole head of minced garlic, then more of the tomato juice, a bit of vinegar, and cumin. I was thinking I might make it into tacos.

Oddly, the cumin wasn't even discernible in the finished braised meat, so sometime during the day I decided instead to make it "Italian" by adding basil and oregano and melting some asadero cheese over the top.

A. went to the store this day, which is why we had the mushrooms. I chopped up more of the arugula and added it to the pan with the mushrooms, because why not? I always like to sneak in a little extra vegetal matter.

Added bonus: It makes the mushrooms much more visually appealing.

The pasta for the kids just had butter, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese. They were perfectly happy with this.


Short version: Beef, rice, frozen peas, pureed calabaza

Long version: I had taken out a package of tenderized bottom round steaks, and once again did not have the motivation to chicken-fry them. So I just cut them into pieces and fried them in bacon fat with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. I threw the peas right in there to fry at the last minute with the meat.

There were only enough peas for the children, so I took out a bag of pureed calabaza squash from the freezer for A. and me. I can thaw that enough under running water in about a minute so I can dump the frozen block out of the bag and then microwave the squash. A nice quick option. 

Poppy--the only child who will eat the calabaza--enjoyed dunking her meat in the calabaza like ketchup. Works for me.

We're done with school until after Thanksgiving (hooray!), and today we are going to the zoo. Two hundred miles away.

Pray for us.

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

* Literally. I now have four children who have regularly scheduled Zoom classes--plus A. working in his office and me on my laptop--which means at any given time in the morning we might have five computers in use, with children spread out in all the rooms with closable doors. You can guess how much fun that is.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

T.T.: Shooting for Average

Years ago, I read a book by M.F.K. Fisher in which she advises parents that they should worry less about  individually balanced meals for their children and more about the balance of nutrition over the course of a full day, or even a week. I remember thinking when I read this, "Doesn't everyone do this?"

Apparently not.

When it comes to nutrition, I am all about the averages. 

What I mean by that is I don't even try to get all the food groups into every meal my children (or I) eat. They very, very rarely have a fruit or vegetable at breakfast, for instance. 

(I mean, very few people actually have vegetables with breakfast, but they don't have fruit, either. Mostly because we don't usually have fresh fruit, given its perishability and our distance from stores. But also because I know if they fill up on fruit, they won't eat their eggs.)

Breakfast for them is protein (eggs, milk, yogurt, peanut butter, etc.) and starch (hot cereals or toast).

They sometimes have a fruit or vegetable with their lunches, but generally they only have protein (peanut butter, cream cheese, tuna, cheese, etc.) and starch (bread, crackers, tortillas) at that meal, too.

Dinner is the most traditionally well-balanced of our meals, often including two vegetables along with protein and starch.

And yes, I consider sauerkraut a vegetable. (I do not, however, consider the ketchup a vegetable.)

In addition to averaging out their food groups over the course of a day, I also consider the variety they have throughout the course of a day.

If they have peanut butter on their toast at breakfast, they don't have peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.

If they are having pizza for dinner, they don't eat bread at the other two meals.

Basically, I'm trying to make their entire day's food well-rounded and varied, not just one meal.

I find that this is less crazy-making than trying to ensure they get everything at every meal.

So that's today's tip: Take a longer view when it comes to nutrition and shoot for a well-balanced day, rather than a well-balanced meal three times a day. It makes life much easier and less stressful.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Monday Bouquets: Surprise Flowers

I was yanking the withered remains of the choking morning glory vines off the front fence last week and discovered some little purple flowers that had been hiding at the bottom of the wall.

So of course I rewarded their tenacity by cutting them and bringing them inside.

No idea what they are, though. The yellow is actually asparagus foliage. It's a very cheery yellow, but it does shed a bit.

Also outside, the hollyhocks continue to rage against the dying of the light:

I think our forecasted low of 22 degrees on Wednesday night will be the end for them, however.

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

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Snapshots: Woodworking Wins for the Week

A couple of years ago, the MiL had the giant black walnut tree on the north side of Blackrock felled, thereby ending the annual labor of picking up the nuts that fell by the hundreds every fall.

I may have silently cheered from across the country, since I was the main walnut-picker during the decade we lived there.


A. hauled some of that wood back here.

It was this wood my father used to make me a nightstand after I finally decided I was tired of the rickety 20-year-old folding table that had been serving that purpose for a couple of years.

Can I say it "really transformed the space"?

No, that would be too annoying. I can say I love it, though.

That same wood was also called into service when the handle on my potato masher fell off. The handle was just a stainless steel tube attached to the mashing part. I asked Cubby to carve a new handle for me, which he did in about fifteen minutes. Then A. drilled a hole in the wood and used J-B Weld to attach it to the masher part.

 Ta da! My very fancy potato masher. (And the origami tulip Cubby also made for me. He's very crafty.)

In non-wood news . . .

The dogs found a way out of our perimeter fence the other night and were waiting for me outside of the gate when I went out for our morning walk.

On the outside looking in.

They were still game for a walk, of course.

Here comes the sun, do do do.

And there you have it! My life, snapshotted.