Friday, December 24, 2021

Ready, Set . . .


It's a go for Christmas mayhem in the morning.

Merry Christmas, my lovelies. I hope your day is filled with light.

Friday Food: Ram Lap and Many Desserts

Merry Christmas Eve! I've been making an awful lot of treats lately, but there must be real food too, of course. Like so . . .


Short version: Split pea soup, leftovers

Long version: I brought home some leftover ham from the school cafeteria last week, so I made some split pea soup with it. Happy Cubby.

Calvin, who is not a fan of soup, had leftover meatloaf, rice, and carrot sticks.

A. had some of the soup and then some steak and rice.

I had a salad with the last of the meatloaf in it.


Short version: Birthday pizza, carrot sticks with ranch dip, chocolate pudding with whipped cream

Long version: Jack's birthday request meal. 

I usually buy store-brand semi-sweet chocolate chips. In this pudding, I used fancy Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips that my mom brought me, which are much better chocolate chips, but which made the pudding too sweet. It wasn't inedible by any means, but I definitely should have cut the added sugar to compensate for the sweeter milk chocolate. Oh well. 

I had a salad with some leftover steak, the very last of the store lettuce and a handful of arugula that's still hanging out in the garden. Arugula really is amazingly hardy stuff.


Short version: Beef stir-fry, rice, baked apples with cream

Long version: Our meals were getting to be pretty sad in the vegetable department because we were pretty much out of fresh vegetables, so I decided to make a stir-fry and use the frozen bags of vegetables.

We'd been having so many rich desserts that I made the call to have baked apples for our regular Sunday dessert. Baked apples are about the most wholesome dessert possible. 

I had frozen a few gallon-sized bags of peeled apple slices when I got a surplus of apples in the fall, and I used one of those bags. To the apples I added cinnamon and a container of . . . something. The something had been in my refrigerator for so long that I forgot what it really was, other than it was a mixture of butter and some kind of sugar left from making a long-gone dessert, so I figured it would keep. Tasted kind of like brown sugar and butter.

Anyway. The apples were good.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, pasta, frozen green peas, pureed calabaza

Long version: I used the last bit of pizza sauce with the pasta, along with butter, for the kids. 

I took the bag of pureed calabaza from the freezer. And I found the peas! I knew I had at least two big bags of frozen green peas in one of the big freezers outside, and I finally found them when I was re-organizing one freezer so I could put in the new 50-pound bag of flour.

I actually had three big bags of green peas. So we're all set for peas for awhile.


Short version: Ram lap, roasted potatoes, leftover peas and calabaza

Long version: The lap on a sheep is the breast. This was from the ram A. butchered just over a year ago. He cut off the lap, which is flat, thin, and boneless, and cut it into two pieces. I found these when I was re-organizing the freezer and thought I'd better use it.

The lap has more fat than meat on it, and the best way to cook it is to roll it up and slow cook it, kind of like pork belly. So I rolled it around six minced cloves of garlic, some already cooked onion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oregano, and cooked it for a couple of hours at 300 degrees. I drained off the fat as it rendered off and used some of it for the potatoes.

If I'm to be completely honest, I didn't even eat any of the meat. I really dislike any sort of meat that has such a high percentage of fat in and on it, so I just ate potatoes and vegetables. Everyone else, however, LOVED it. The kids all had seconds, and Cubby declared that this is what he wants for his birthday dinner.

Okay then.


Short version: Italian sliders, leftover pasta, garlic bread, carrot sticks with curry dip

Long version: Italian sliders=very small ground beef patties seasoned like meatballs, fried and covered with marinara sauce and asadero cheese.

How many times have I explained that? Probably too many. 


Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, chicken curry soup

Long version: The soup was a masterpiece of found food. It started with a quart of curried split peas from the freezer that I had way oversalted when I made them originally. To that I added the stock I had made from the quail carcasses last week, a bag of already-cooked chicken from stock-making when we were butchering the meat chickens, some already-cooked onion, chopped potatoes and carrots, green peas, and a bit of cream to finish it off. 

I cooked the sausage separately, although I actually cut a bit up and added it right to my bowl of soup. It was tasty.

In non-dinner news, I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Christmas is the only time I make cinnamon rolls. I used a different recipe this time, and they came out very, very well. I used all white flour, and next time I would increase the cinnamon by about half a teaspoon, but otherwise, two thumbs up.

I even had some Christmas-y sprinkles that were at the bottom of a container of store-bought sugar cookies one of the students at school gave me. I had saved them for some unknown purpose, and it turned out to be just enough sprinkles for four of the cinnamon rolls, one for each kid.

Festive cinnamon rolls ahoy.

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

T.T.: Natural-Dye Homemade Playdough

Would you believe that in almost twelve years of parenting, I have never once purchased playdough? Kids love it, of course, but most parents do not. Messy, expensive, funky smelling, and inevitably ends up dried out in those little cups, which then get thrown away.

Not into it.

However! At least three of those problems can be avoided by making your own playdough. (Not the messiness. That's just the nature of playdough, purchased or no.)

I had never tried this, but on Jack's birthday this year, I did. Because it was cold, and the kids were bored, and, well, it was Jack's birthday and he wanted to try it.

I used this recipe for the actual dough*, and, to be honest, it is kind of a pain. Mostly because it's pretty hard to stir the ever-thickening dough around in the pot continuously. It's not complicated, though.

But of course, what is playdough without all the colors? And what if you don't have food coloring because the idea of putting it in food is alarming to you and you never buy it?

And by "you," I of course mean "I."

Luckily, I know from my adventures in Easter-egg dying** that it is perfectly possible to create a dye from random things found in the kitchen. Which is why I dyed my playdough with blueberries and coffee.

I didn't really follow directions for this part. All I did was pour boiling water over about six frozen blueberries, then mash the berries and strain the resulting liquid off. And I used my spent coffee ground in the French press to make a some second-run coffee. 

Then I separated some of the thickened white dough into two chunks. I put one chunk back into the cooking pot with the blueberry water, mixed it all together, and cooked it some more until the dough had reached the proper consistency again. This made pink playdough, which made Poppy very happy.

I did the same with the coffee water, although I think I added too much of the water to that color, so it was a little wetter. It never did get drier, even with more cooking and kneading in extra flour. It was still usable though. And that made brown.

Colored playdough! Yay me!

If you want to try this, I would say you only need a few tablespoons of the dyed water for about a cup of the dough.

I thought about making yellow with curry powder, but then I thought how curry powder stains and decided I really didn't want to have my children handling that at all.

The pink blueberry playdough is a little more damp than the white, and the brown coffee was more damp than the pink. But it was all a hit.

Playdough table and chairs made by my dad, table cover courtesy of a really cheap and awful shower curtain liner from a dollar store that I use to cover the kitchen table when the kids paint.

It was a little bit of effort, but now I have three bags of playdough (in quart-size ziptop bags that I wash and re-use) that I did not have to pay for, that do not smell weird, and that did not create any further plastic trash. Hooray.

* Because it was the first one that came up when I searched for a homemade playdough recipe. That's about as much research as I ever put into recipes, to be honest.

** This just reminded me that I should have tried using paprika to make orange. Next time.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Snapshots: Let's Go To the Tree Lot!

Of course, this being a very remote corner of New Mexico, our "tree lot" looks like this:

No sleigh rides and $5 hot cocoa here.

Just a dirt tank with, surprisingly, a little water still in it from the last rain we had, uh, two months ago.

Jasper came too, of course. 

There's the tree!

Then back to Adventure Van we go. (I will never stop being amazed at the absolutely saturated blue of the New Mexico sky.)

Decorating . . .

Putting on the star . . .

All done!

A small tree, but cheery.

There you have it! Our annual Christmas tree adventure, snapshotted.