Friday, December 31, 2021

Friday Food: So Much Celebrating

With three family birthdays, Christmas, and New Year's within a two-week period, this is a very celebratory time of year in our house.


Short version: Tamales, chocolate roulade

Long version: Such a simple meal . . . that takes so long.

This was the second year I made tamales, and, as with anything, it was faster and easier this time as I implemented my own shortcuts. 

Like soaking the corn husks in the sink, because no matter what all the recipes say about using "a large bowl," I'm pretty sure almost no one outside a commercial kitchen has a bowl large enough to fit these things.

I started it the day before by pressure-cooking beef ribs, which makes stock, meat, and rendered fat. All of those things are in the tamales. Most people, of course, use purchased stock and lard, but I figured it was a good way to use up some beef ribs. Plus, as a general rule, the fewer the purchased ingredients in anything, the better it tastes.

Tamales are a lot of work, but they are worth it.

Ditto the roulade.

Next year, though, I need to remember that the quantities in the tamale recipes I consult ("follow" isn't really the right word . . .) don't really make enough. The recipes say they make about 30 tamales. This year I made one recipe's worth and ended up with only 21, so I made another half recipe and had 34 tamales at the end of it. But really, I should just double the masa mixture to start with so I can have 50 and can freeze some. Because if I'm going to all that effort, I should definitely get at least one more meal out of it.

Anyway. That's just me talking to myself. 


Short version: Spaghetti and meatballs, Christmas mushrooms, green salad, eggnog, molasses cookies

Long version: The tamales were actually our big Christmas dinner, albeit on Christmas Eve, but this meal was almost as popular.

The meatballs were some I had made a month or so ago and froze, so all I had to do was make the spaghetti, to which I added a bag of roasted tomato sauce from the freezer and some Latino cheese.

The Latino cheese is made by a local-ish cheese factory that sells their cheese in the grocery store of one of the small towns we go to sometimes. I think they made up the name entirely, because an Internet search revealed nothing about it. Anyway, it tasted like a slightly less aged Parmesan, so I grated it and added it to the pasta. The kids didn't notice any difference, which is great, because I can't get blocks of Parmesan here. Having a local substitute--like the asadero cheese we use in place of mozzarella--is really useful. I hope they keep making it.

The mushrooms are a Christmas tradition going back to Cubby's toddler days. When he was very small and offered some mushrooms to try, he declined by saying he only ate mushrooms on Christmas. I suspect he was just trying to delay the mushroom consumption to some far later date and randomly chose Christmas, but it has now become an unalterable family tradition to have mushrooms on Christmas Day. Three of the four children actually like mushrooms now, but the one who doesn't still gamely eats his yearly Christmas mushroom piece every year.

The molasses cookies are a recipe from the MiL's Grandma Bishop, of chocolate cake fame. The recipe as written uses lard and would make something like 100 cookies, which is what farm women used to make to fill their cookie jars. I made half a recipe, with butter, and they are delicious. The combination of spices is very Christmas-y, and they make a perfectly seasonal dessert with some eggnog.

I made the eggnog, too, using this recipe. It used up the seven egg yolks left after making the roulade, and was perfect with the cookies. Mine was too thick after chilling, but I just thinned it out with some milk.


Short version: Beef stew, bread and butter, cheese

Long version: I had taken out a random bag from the little freezer labeled "beef for BBQ," which I think was from the last time I made beef stock with soup bones. I actually used that for the tamales, and so I didn't need the beef from the ribs. I used that beef for this soup, which also included beef stock left from pressure-cooking the beef ribs, the last of the roasted tomato sauce, some already cooked onions, potatoes, carrots, and frozen green peas.


Short version: Birthday chips and meat, cake and ice cream

Long version: I do cook my own birthday dinner, because that way I'm assured of getting exactly what I want. I had bought some tortilla chips awhile ago, so I just combined the last of the tamale meat and the rest of the rib meat with more salsa, shredded cheese, some leftover canned black beans, and sour cream, and served that with the chips. Everyone scooped up the meat with the chips, and yes, that is what I consider to be a celebratory meal. 

I still believe chips make everything better, I just don't often indulge in them.

I made the ice cream using this recipe and the last of a bag of Oreos Cubby had bought with his own money at the store last time we were there (he gave me permission). You may recall I had tried this sort of condensed-milk-based no-churn ice cream before, with overly sweet results thanks to too many chocolate chips. This one was not too sweet, although it does have an odd mouthfeel. It sort of coats. I suspect it's our ersatz "heavy cream," however, which has thickeners and nonfat milk and all kinds of weirdness in it. And is the only kind we can get. Sigh.


The ice cream was good with the cake, though, which was, of course, Grandma Bishop's cake and which Cubby made for me.

Oh! And the MiL's brother, who is the family historian, sent me some photos of Grandma Bishop. Including this one that features the MiL herself (in a baby bonnet!) on Grandma Bishop's lap.

No cake or cookies in sight, though. Bummer.


Short version: Rooster pot pie, biscuits with strawberry jam

Long version: I got a call the morning before from a lady we know slightly who had heard we would take roosters. 

How many calls like this have I gotten over the years? Dozens. Which is how we've gotten hundreds of pounds of home-raised chicken for free.

This particular delivery was seven roosters. That's a lot of roosters.


A. killed them Tuesday morning and skinned two of them for dinner. (The others he hung for a day or so to age.) These two I pressure-cooked and used for the pot pie.

Instead of a regular pie crust, I made a biscuit crust for the top. The children were very happy with this meal.

I was feeling whimsical, hence the vent slits in the shape of Christmas trees.

I had a little of the biscuit dough left, so I made some biscuits and let the kids have one each with strawberry jam for dessert. That was popular.


Short version: Cubby's tomato soup, leftovers

Long version: The "creamy" tomato soup from Cubby's ATK kids cookbook is one of the recipes out of it that we make somewhat regularly. Actually, that he makes somewhat regularly. He makes a quadruple recipe of it (which is not actually that much, since the original recipe only serves 1-2), and this time we got to use my brand-new immersion blender to puree it.

Thanks, MiL!

The soup doesn't have any protein in it, so the kids had it with tortillas and melted cheese. The classic pairing of a grilled cheese sandwich is overkill with this soup, because the soup is thickened with a bunch of bread.

A. had a bowl of chicken soup made with rooster stock and pot pie filling. And I had the last of the leftover meatballs.


Short version: Bull and potato skillet, frozen peas

Long version: I used the immersion blender again to break down the pressure-canned bull meat even further before I added it to the potatoes and tallow in the skillet. I can tell this immersion blender is going to get a lot of use.

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

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Thursday Thank You

Okay, I think I need to lay off the days of the week alliteration titles, right?



I did want to say thank you to all of you lovely people who took the time to comment and wish me a happy birthday. I am very bad at responding to comments individually--which doesn't at all mean I don't love them because of course I do--so I thought one big blanket thank you would be the way to go here. Except . . .

Linda: I love how consistently you show up to cheer in the comments section. And that you actually make some of the random recipes I post. Thank you!

MiL: I'm not scared of lard . . . just of grocery-store lard. As soon as we have a good source for real lard, it will be in all of Grandma Bishop's recipes. Thank you for being the respository for family history (and recipes). It's fun to pass them along to the next generation.

G.P.: Thank YOU for being here for so many years and for all the kind comments you have left.

Mary in MN: Thank you! I hope your winter this year in MN hasn't been too severe. And if you're sick of snow, please send some to my particular drought-stricken county in New Mexico.

Sheila: Thank you! I wish we had gotten your white post-Christmas (see above).

Lisa: And a belated thank you to you!

Tammy: Thanks! I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas.

Anonymous: I hope you do try the cake. It's delicious, and fun to watch the baking soda and buttermilk fizz.

Kit: Thank you! I appreciate your regular Friday Food comments so I can be a nosy parker and read what everyone else eats.

Cheryl: Thank you so much for making one of your rare comments here. I'm so glad you like coming here and reading.

Claire: Thank you! Having a framing of the rising sun does greatly enhance glowiness.

What can I say? I was inspired to write individually to each and every one of you.

And to those of you who didn't actually comment but who still spend some of your precious time here reading these many words that I throw out there . . . Thank you. I truly do appreciate each and every pair of eyeballs. Here's a pretty picture for you.

Sunrise and sunflower skeletons. (Never going to stop with the alliteration.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

T.T.: In Honor of My 42nd Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. To commemorate the occasion, I took a special Morning Walk Photo:

A selfie with the rising sun. And my faithful companion in the background.

Of more practical use to all of you, however, is the following recipe for Grandma Bishop's Chocolate Cake.

I have mentioned this cake many, many times in my Friday Food posts. It's my go-to cake, because it's so easy and good. The recipe came from the MiL's grandmother. The original name of it was Dom Econ cake (as in, Domestic Economy).

The Dom Econ cake recipe is associated with Cornell University. It's possible Grandma Bishop, who attended Cornell, learned it there. The recipe I have from the MiL indicates that it's circa 1910. 

My actual recipe.

She may also have learned it from a women's club she belonged to that almost certainly received information, recipes, and demonstrations from Cornell's Agricultural Extension program.

In any case, this recipe has now been in the family for over a century.

Grandma Bishop's great-great grandson (Cubby) made it for me yesterday for my birthday. It's easy enough that an 11-year-old can just follow the recipe. And it uses only one mixing bowl. And no electric mixer.

If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.

So, without further ado, I present to you . . .

Grandma Bishop's Chocolate Cake 
* Recipe as written makes one cake layer.


2 well-rounded tablespoons cocoa ("well-rounded" means "heaping")

1/4 cup lard OR 1/3 cup butter at room temperature

1/2 cup boiling water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup buttermilk or full-fat plain yogurt


1) Butter and flour an 8"x8" pan, or 9" round cake pan. If you want to be very sure the cake comes out cleanly, cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and then butter and flour it.

2) Put cocoa, lard or butter cut into pieces, and boiling water in medium bowl. Stir until all the fat melts.

3) Stir in the sugar, flour, and salt.

4) When combined, stir in the egg and vanilla.

5) In the measuring cup you used for the flour and sugar, put the buttermilk or yogurt and quickly stir in the baking soda. It will foam up. It's fun.

6) Add the buttermilk/yogurt mixture to the batter in the bowl and mix it all together quickly. Pour into prepared pan.

7) Bake at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

8) Let cool completely before upending the pan to take the cake out. Frost as you like. Or, if you're like me and aren't so into frosting, just dust the top with some powdered sugar.


Thanks, Grandma Bishop. Your memory (and your cake) lives on.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Boxing Day

Americans don't really celebrate Boxing Day as a general rule, but we did this year. And it was funny.

See, one of the gifts my parents sent for the kids this year was a boxing bag and a pair of gloves each. A. used to take boxing lessons and had been meaning to get a bag for a couple of years now. Our covered porch, built by one of the previous owners, has a frame of welded steel pipe that is perfect for hanging a 100-pound boxing bag. 

A. was sick on Christmas Day, so he didn't hang it right away. But yesterday he was feeling well enough to hang it up. On Boxing Day. Ha.

A. gave a quick boxing lesson first.

Demonstrating a basic combo.

I don't think cowboy boots are generally recommended for boxing.

You think this little lady with the unicorn hairbows is going to be left out?

Think again.

I don't know how Boxing Day is typically celebrated in Britain, but here in the Wild Wild West, whacking a giant sandfilled bag seemed appropriate. And fun.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Snapshots: Christmas, Of Course

Delivering bread to the neighbors on Christmas Eve, western-style.

Making tamales . . .

A lot of tamales.

Stocking exploration.

I don't know what I was actually taking a picture of here, but the end result is pretty trippy. And also quite representative of Christmas morning with four young children.

Favorite gifts included a remote-control tarantula for Calvin and a remote-control rat for Jack. Gross.

Poppy's favorite toy, a unicorn she named Pretty Sparkles, inevitably ended up as prey in this game of disgusting battery-controlled creatures.

Poppy also received nail polish from my sister, which of course must go on right away. (Lookit those pudgy hands!)

Cubby received an army set with something like 750 pieces.

As well as 120 earplugs (still a favorite toy, all these years later), seen here in formation at an elevated battle position.

There you have it! Our Christmas, snapshotted.