Saturday, December 18, 2021


Jack is seven today. He has a cold, as does everyone else in the family except A.

It's going to be a very snotty birthday.

But! There are Lincoln Logs to play with courtesy of Grandma, some very gooey-looking store-bought cinnamon rolls that were given to me by a student at school, and chocolate pudding to look forward to after a pizza dinner.

Happy birthday to Jack,
a fantastic big brother, a funny dude, and an all-around great guy.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Friday Food: Birthday Flan


Short version: Turkey soup, breakfast sausage patties, chocolate revel bars

Long version: "Is this . . . turkey soup?" A. asked. "Wasn't Thanksgiving a long time ago?"

Yes on both counts. But it was turkey soup I had taken out of the freezer.

I had made a very large pot of soup with the last of our very large turkey and the very large amount of broth I made from the carcass. I omitted any starch before freezing, though, as potatoes or rice or whatever tend to get mushy in the freezer. So to the container of soup I took out of the freezer I added rice and the some leftover mushrooms and onions.

The sausage was separate. 

Cubby made the revel bars. He wanted to make cookies in the afternoon, which I told him he could do if he cleaned up the kitchen afterwards. The revel bars were a recipe he found in one of my cookbooks that involved a layer of basically oatmeal cookie dough, then melted chocolate, then a topping of oats and nuts. They came out well, and it made a LOT of cookies. 

So many bars.

And more importantly . . .

Dishes I did not wash. Hooray.


Short version: Tacos, carrot sticks

Long version: I had made quite a large batch of taco meat earlier in the week, and we ate the last of it this night.


Short version: Quail, shepherd's hand pies, roasted potatoes, green salad, chocolate revel bars

Long version: A. went quail hunting with Cubby and Calvin at some public land a few miles from our house. He got four quail. They hung overnight and I roasted them this day. They were tasty, but very small.

That's why I made the shepherd's hand pies, too. For those, I used the extra pie crust I had put in the freezer when we made the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, plus some shepherd's pie meat from the freezer, and a bit of cheese. The children enjoyed them very much.


Short version: Shepherd's skillet, broccoli soup, apple/pearsauce and cream

Long version: Due to various chores that needed to be done when we got home from school before it got dark outside, I didn't even start making dinner until 5 p.m. Which meant speed was the name of the game.

I had some of the shepherd's pie meat left, so I micowaved a couple of giant potatoes, diced one and a half of them, and fried those with the meat.

The other half of the potato went into a soup for Cubby, who accidentally gouged a very large and very bloody furrow into the roof of his mouth on Sunday. He couldn't eat anything solid that would press into the top of his mouth when he swallowed, so I made a quite thin soup for him with the potato, leftover broccoli, some random cooked onion, a jar of beef stock, shredded cheddar cheese, and sour cream, pureed in the food processor.

He also had the apple/pearsauce. And then the rest of the children had the same thing, because who can resist apple/pearsauce with cream?


Short version: Meatloaf, rice, carrots, caramel milk

Long version: The ground beef we got from our last cow is definitely more lean than I like it, because it was a range cow and just didn't have a lot of fat on it to start with. I still had a package of fat from the cow we got a few years ago, though, which I recently rendered. So I melted some of that tallow and mixed it in to the meatloaf mixture. Much better.

Earlier in the day, I had made A.'s requested birthday dessert for the next day, which was flan. Flan requires making a caramel, and then, of course, I ended up with a pot that had rock-hard caramel all over the inside. Rather than boil that off with water to clean it, I heated milk in the pot and mixed the melted caramel into the milk. 

That was a pretty big hit, as you might imagine.


Short version: Birthday steaks, twice-baked potatoes, green salad with ranch dressing, flan

Long version: I know I saw a package of hanger steaks in the freezer, which is a particularly choice cut, but I couldn't find it when I went to get steak out for A.'s birthday dinner. I informed him he would have to settle for New York strip steaks and filet mignon.

He was fine with this.

I baked the potatoes the night before with the meatloaf, and then scooped them out, mashed, and stuffed them, so when I got home from work, they just needed to be baked another half hour.

The flan was from a recipe A. sent me. I've never made flan before, and so, predictably, I made some mistakes. The recipe calls for blending the custard mixture, and mentions it may need to be done in two batches.

It definitely does. But I didn't. So that caused a huge mess.

The caramel also refused to get smooth, despite my constant stirring, also at the behest of the recipe. A., who used to make flan years ago, came in while I was trying to get the caramel smooth and told me he always left the caramel alone without stirring to start melting in a single layer first. So I stopped stirring, and sure enough, it smoothed out.

I also forgot to cover it with foil when I put it in the oven, but I remembered after only twenty minutes or so, so no harm done.

The birthday boy very much enjoyed his dessert, particularly the texture. It was pretty sweet, though. Kind of inevitable, with all that condensed milk and caramel.

The following is a photograph the MiL sent me of a giant squash she grew or bought, I'm not sure which:

A., the appreciator of all giant vegetables, of course asked her for some seeds.


Short version: Leftover meatloaf, leftover rice, lettuce with ranch dressing

Long version: I made it to the end of the marathon that is the last week of school before Christmas break, but I was not exactly bursting with energy by the time we all made it home after the last fun-filled day of school. That's why I made the most low-energy dinner possible with the leftovers I purposely planned for earlier in the week.

I didn't even put anything with the lettuce, which is why it was just lettuce, not a salad.

Whatever. The semester is over, our very long break has begun, and everyone is going to sleep in this morning. It's the most wonderful time of the year. 

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Song Time!

It's December 15th, which is the birthday of that famous American . . . A.

And, as always, we will sing an original song of my own writing entitled "The Woodchuck Man Can." The tune isn't original to me, though. The words are sung to the tune of "The Candyman Can."

(The most recent version is here, and it links to the previous nine versions should you have a burning desire to read all the versions. Man, I've been doing this a long time.)

Here we go!

Who can dig all the holes

For bulbs to grow in spring?

Who can pull a house down so he can re-build everything?

The woodchuck man, 

The woodchuck man can

The woodchuck man can

'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can load the van up

To camp with all four kids?

Who can kill a raccoon at night when he is bid?

The woodchuck man,

The woodchuck man can

The woodchuck man can 

'Cause he uses what he has an makes it work for him.

Happy birthday to A., the fastest woodchuck in the west.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

T.T.: The Secret To Cast Iron Seasoning

It is undeniable that I have, um, a lot of cast iron cooking vessels.

Eight, to be exact, if I include the enameled cast iron dutch oven.

About half of my cast iron skillets were inherited*, and they, of course have the best seasoning.

If you're not familiar with cast iron, "seasoning" refers to the smooth layer that builds up on the inside of the pan as it's used. The best cast iron, with the best seasoning, is pretty much non-stick and doesn't rust.

So how does one achieve that magical state? How, exactly, is cast iron cookware seasoned?

Well! Let me tell you!

I have seasoned the other half of my cast iron cookware myself, and at first I tried using the commonly given directions, which is to rub it with a layer of cooking oil, and then put it in a warm oven for awhile, to kind of bake the oil in.

What this does, unfortunately, is create a nasty, sticky, thin layer of oil that doesn't at all create the smooth surface I was going for.

Over the years, I have discovered that what really seasons my cast iron is animal fats. And a lot of them.

The more cast iron is used for frying foods in tallow or lard, the better the surface of the pan. It doesn't have to be deep-fat frying, but really, the more fat, the better.

Rendering tallow has an excellent seasoning effect, as you might imagine.

This is, of course, why the older skillets are the best: Because people used to fry foods a lot more, and they weren't using canola oil.

So! If you have a cast iron pot or skillet that you need to season, go ahead and fry some doughnuts or make french fries. Then you'll have both better seasoning on your pan and some doughnuts to eat. 

Practical and delicious.

Bonus cast iron advice: Once they're seasoned pretty well, they can be washed with dish soap, and even a nylon scrubby, but they should be put in a hot oven or on a hot burner to dry them off immediately after washing.

* At least one from my mother, and today happens to be her birthday. Happy birthday, Mom! Thanks for the skillet!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Snapshots: Here and There

This week's photos are all over the place. Let's get started, shall we?

On a small side street of the town I took Poppy and Jack to for their adventure, I drove past this remarkable residence. I had to stop and take a photo for A. the Stonemason.

Is it a mini-monastery? Is it a mini-castle? Whatever it is, it didn't look inhabited anymore, which is a shame. This is a home with character, to say the least.

Poppy is the only one of the children who is always excited to go to school. Unfortunately, preschool is only two days a week, which means on the other two days, she's sad that her brothers get to go and she doesn't. A. and I had to go to the school to pick some things up last week, though, so she got to come along and play on her playground on a Thursday.

And then she climbed all by herself to the highest bar on this thing! Doesn't get much better when you're four.

A couple of the boys decided to be complete cliches and break a lamp in the living room during a wrestling match. Unfortunately, it was the reading lamp right next to A.'s chair. Fortunately, only the ceramic base broke. All the electrical components were fine, and sitting on the bookcase right next to the broken lamp was a wooden vase with a top that my dad had made us years ago and that was the perfect shape for a new lamp base.

So A. drilled a hole in the bottom, chiseled out a groove for the cord, and put it all together.

Broken lamp rescue.

Ta da! (Pay no attention to that picture on the wall. I had just taken it down to dust it and realized after this photo was taken that it was slightly crooked. It has since been straightened. I know you were worried.)

And, as always, we'll close with Walk Photos. This time, however, thanks to late sunrises and early school departures, we have a late-afternoon walk.

The sun wasn't quite setting yet, so we have a dramatic cross of light rather than a silhouette.

And of course, everyone was awake at this time of day, so I had more company than just my usual canine companions.

Yes, that's an old toilet plunger in Jack's hand. And no, I don't know why.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.