Friday, December 30, 2022

Friday Food: Gone Fishin'

This post coming to you from the Gulf coast of Texas. Surprise! Our kids had never seen the ocean, and at least some of them were excited about saltwater fishing. So we decided to make the long (looong) drive to the nearest ocean to us, which is the Gulf of Mexico. That is why I am typing this from our rental house in Port Aransas, Texas. That is also why I don't have any photos. They don't seem to be loading.

Don't worry. We'll be home Sunday and I can post all the photos then. Until then, photo-less food!


Short version: Stir-fry, rice

Long version: I had taken out a couple of quart bags of already-cooked and shredded beef rib meat. I used one to make tamale filling, and one to make the stir-fry. The stir-fry also used up quite a lot of the vegetables I brought home from the school salad bar, including mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, and carrots.

I got all the kids into the kitchen with me to actually make the tamales this day too, so I wouldn't have to do it on Christmas Day.


Short version: Baked ham, scalloped potatoes, green salad with ranch dressing, chocolate roulade

Long version: This was a ham I bought before Thanksgiving when I was getting our turkey. Cubby had requested I cook it for Christmas, but the rest of the family was unwilling to give up their tamales. So we had the ham on Christmas Eve instead. 

It was a spiral ham, which I've never cooked before. Not as wet, but easier to dry out while cooking, as well. I baked it covered, and then poured over a mixture of mustard, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and water for the last half hour or so. I didn't have pineapple juice to make the Best Ham in the World that my family raves over, but it was still good.

Scalloped potatoes are definitely a special occasion side dish for me to make, because I really dislike slicing all those potatoes with the mandolin part of my grater. Since I was doing it, though, I made a full 13"x9" Pyrex of them (potatoes, salt, pepper, Parmesan, milk, and cream). And then I forgot to put a pan under the casserole, resulting in dripping milk/cream all over the bottom of my oven and SO MUCH SMOKE.

Rookie mistake.

Good thing it was warm enough to open the windows. Not warm, you understand, but warm enough. At least not as frigid as the previous two days.

I always make a chocolate roulade for Christmas or Christmas Eve, using the recipe in my old Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home cookbook. The recipe is online, too. Apparently, Martha Stewart has discovered it. She also posted a video of Jacques and Julia making the roulade, which is fun. 

This was the show that A. and I used to watch in our basement apartment in Albany, NY. That's where I got the cookbook, too, from the bargain bin of a Barnes and Noble.

One of these years I'll think ahead enough to get good chocolate to make it, but this year, as all previous years, I've just used store-brand chocolate chips, and it's still delicious.


Short version: Tamales, eggnog, molasses cookies

Long version: Tamales are a New Mexico tradition for Christmas, and a delicious tradition they are. I make mine with beef and beef tallow instead of lard and pork, because I find they re-heat better that way. Also, I have a lot of beef on hand.

I use this recipe for eggnog, which neatly takes care of all the egg yolks leftover from the roulade.

And this recipe for the cookies. Of course.


Short version: Carnitas, leftover scalloped potatoes, sauteed spinach

Long versio: A. brought home some giant packages of pork shoulder that I separated into pieces and froze. This was one of the pieces, cooked slowly in the oven in my enameled Dutch oven. When it was tender, I just pulled it into pieces and fried it in its own rendered tallow to crisp it up.

That in combination with the potatoes made for a pretty heavy meal.


Short version: Grudging chili, tortillas and cheese

Long version: We left about 7 a.m. this morning for Texas and didn't stop until around 5 p.m. in Eden, Texas. There was a microwave in our hotel room, but I didn't plan very well for dinner. I had grabbed a couple of containers of frozen chili and put them in the cooler, but our cooler is so good that they were still mostly frozen solid. And the containers weren't really microwavable. So I ran hot water on the outside of one container until I could gouge out bits and put them in a jar to microwave.

I managed to get enough for everyone to eat this way with their microwaved corn tortillas and cheese, but it was a battle.


Short version: Sausage sampler, crackers and swiss cheese, raw tomatoes and broccoli

Long version: I took Cubby and Poppy to the grocery store when we arrived at our rental house in Port Aransas, Texas, and Cubby requested sausage. This small store actually had a good sausage selection, so we ended up getting four kinds, including the two we ate this night: smoked beef sausage, and boudin. Boudin is a Cajun sausage of mostly rice and pork. I guess we were close enough to Louisiana for it to be in the store. 

It was quite spicy, but very tasty, and Cubby declared it his new favorite sausage.


Short version: Fresh whiting, yay!, and leftover french fries

Long version: We went fishing in the morning on a charter boat that took us out just beyond the bay and into the gulf. This isn't a great time of year for fishing, and the deckhands said last week's cold snap drove the fish away, so all we (I use this term loosely, as I do not actually fish) caught were catfish and whiting. The catfish were thrown back. The whiting were kept by the boat's crew for bait. 

But when we were disembarking, A. asked if he could have some for our own bait, as he was planning on fishing all day the next day. They obligingly gave him about a dozen, the largest of which were maybe 12 inches long. A. cut up the smaller ones for bait, but the three largest ones he cooked. He had some vague memory of hearing whitefish is used to make fish sticks and so forth, and is actually a good eating fish.

They were, indeed, delicious. Although I can only say that secondhand, because I didn't eat anything. Neither did Poppy or Calvin. After our fishing trip in the morning, we went to the seafood restaurant next to the wharf for lunch, and there all the boys absolutely stuffed themselves with enormous platters of various fried sea things. They ate every bit except the french fries. I brought those back to the rental with us and re-heated them in a pan on the stove in some butter. 

The three fish and the leftover fries were enough for the three who ate. 

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

A Very Special Tuesday

Because it's my birthday, yay! This is me 38 years ago.

Attired in the height of '80s fashion.

We're doing something very special today, but you'll probably have to wait until Friday for any photos or anything.

A birthday cliffhanger. Dramatic.

Have a nice day, and feel free to eat some cake in my honor.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Snapshots: The Christmas One, Of Course

A little late, because, well, Christmas. But lots of opportunities for photos!

Our priest celebrates Christmas Mass at five different churches that span a distance of over one hundred miles. So the services are split between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The Mass at our church is at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.


It's hard for modern lights to not look very glare-y in photos. This one through the church window is slighly less harsh.

This is the Christmas tree Poppy and I decorated on Wednesday after work/school.

The children first tried to get up at 4 a.m. to open presents despite clear instructions to wait until 5:30 a.m.("You said we could get up at 3:30!""No, son, I assure you I DID NOT.") After being sent back to bed, the revelry commenced at 5:30 a.m.

Christmas early-morning stocking dump.

A blurry shot of the after-opening scene.

One of the gifts opened was a remote-control unicorn, specifically requested by Poppy. I was very hesitant to include this on the list for the grandparents, because I hate stuff like this (electronics+weird girly stuff), but I did and my parents got it for Poppy. It is, indeed, as weird and creepy as I feared.

And has to be plugged into the USB port on my bedside table clock. (In the mouth? Why?)

But she absolutely loves the thing*, so I don't regret requesting it on her behalf.

Things took a turn for the distinctly more labor-intensive in the afternoon when A. and I had to do some manual labor to get my washing machine working. After many days of The Arctic Blast, the drain pipe for the washing machine was not draining. It drains out of pipe that runs under our (trailer) house and into the back pasture. 

We figured it was frozen. So we cut it where it comes out from under the house and flushed it with hose water when it got warm enough for the hoses to run. This required me to hack out a drainage trench with an adze.

It worked! Yay!

This enabled me to do three loads of laundry that were desperately needed.

My gift to myself this Christmas was clean clothes. Because I am all about self-care.

As soon as the boys saw the water flowing into the trench as the water drained out of the washing machine, they were very enthused about expanding the drainage trench.

Inadvertant Christmas entertainment.

Our Christmas feast featured tamales, as is traditional in New Mexico. 

Also eggnog and molasses cookies, which are not traditional here, but who cares? They taste good.

We actually made the tamales two days ago and kept them in the refrigerator.

The picture looks like so many happy little elves helping in the kitchen. In reality, there was a lot of jockeying for space at the counter and complaining about sticky masa or breaking corn-husk ties. So festive.

We had a very nice sunset to end the day.

It never looks as good in a photo, though.

When I went out to take that photo, I heard the dogs barking from a distance and saw them in the neighbor's pasture, barking furiously at a completely unimpressed bull.

They were entirely unrepentant when they came home in response to my call.

There you have it! Our Christmas, snapshotted.

* Its name, in case you were wondering, is Fantastic Great Brilliant. Because of course, according to Poppy, it is all those things.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Dream, Dream, Dream

Of the joyous day to come.

Christmas Prep in the Arctic

Those of you with small children: Where do you store Christmas presents before they're put under the tree? I seem to recall them being in closets when I was a child. I suspect that with the prevalence of giant walk-in closets now, it has gotten even easier to hide them. And of course, with most of those giant closets being in master bedrooms, it's so simple to close the bedroom door and pull the presents out to wrap in the bedroom. Maybe with some Christmas carols playing.

How idyllic. 

But that's not how it happens at my house.

You know where I store presents? In our unheated and barely enclosed shop, that's where. I don't have anywhere inside my house where they wouldn't be ferreted out by my inquisitive children. So I keep them in the big boxes they're shipped in and stack them in a corner of the shop.

This year's tree awaiting wrapped gifts.

There's plenty of room in the shop, and the kids never look in there, but it makes it somewhat challenging to get them into the house undetected for wrapping. But I really wanted to do some of the wrapping last night, so I wouldn't be faced with a pile of things all to be done before I could sleep tonight. 

However, I put all the presents under the tree after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve. I didn't want to bring them inside, only to have to bring them back out again, and then back in again tonight. So I thought it would be best to just bring them into A.'s office to wrap them, because that has an outside door that opens into the shop.

There were several downsides to this plan. One is that there is very little room in the office, especially with the two big dog crates in there at the moment. 

Another is that A.'s office also has a door leading into Calvin and Jack's room, and they weren't all the way asleep yet. So I had to be very, very quiet. Luckily, my going in and out was somewhat explained by letting the dogs in and out before settling them in their crates*.

But the biggest downside was the weather. It was nine degrees outside, and thus nine degrees in the shop. Maybe 40 degrees in the office. And I was going back and forth between them. So cold. So, so cold. 

Luckily, most of my "wrapping" involves sticking things in re-usable gift bags and re-labeling them. I decided anything that required finger dexterity, like wrapping paper and tape, could wait until tonight when I could bring everything into my bedroom.

I was only out there for maybe 25 minutes, but that was plenty long enough. My hands were stiff and numb, and my feet were blocks of ice, but I got most of the presents ready to go. 

Merry Christmas Eve to everyone, and I hope your final preparations happen in climate control. 

* What actually happened there is that I let the dogs out to go to the bathroom before they were in for the night, and they went out the door, stopped, and then huddled in some camping equipment next to the office door before I let them back in. They didn't even get three feet from the office door. That's how unpleasant it was.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Friday Food: Christmas Approaches


Short version: Sirloin steaks, oven fries, green salad with ranch dressing, leftover pumpkin pudding

Long version: This is what I would have made the day before for A.'s birthday if I had been home. Since I wasn't, it had to wait until the day after his birthday. Appreciated all the same.


Short version: Leftover steak, spaghetti with pesto, frozen peas, pureed squash

Long version: I have never managed to have enough basil in the garden that I can make enough pesto to not feel momentary regret for having used some in the winter. It sure is good, though.

Break for a Jasper action shot.

He leaps from windows with the greatest of ease!


Short version: Birthday spaghetti and meatballs, green salad with ranch dressing, chocolate pudding with whipped cream

Long version: Jack's birthday request. Well, actually, it was his second choice. His first was pizza, but since I didn't have any usable flour, I had to give him a raincheck on the pizza. He chose spaghetti and meatballs as the runner-up meal.

He hasn't had a cake on his birthday in some time. He always chooses something like pudding instead. As a matter of fact, almost all of my children prefer dairy-based desserts to flour-based ones. Good thing, given my lack of flour.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: The younger children and I went to the church right after school to help decorate it for Christmas, so we didn't get home until almost 6 p.m. Good thing all I needed to do was heat up the leftover spaghetti and meatballs for the children.

A. had leftover steak and rice. Cubby had gone to lie down during dinner, saying he wasn't hungry. He appeared just after every last scrap of food had been eaten to announce he was feeling better and wanted to eat meat.

And because I am magic, I made some appear. He got about a cup of bull enchilada meat that had been in the freezer for awhile. I microwaved it with some cheese on top and he shoveled it down.


Short version: Meatloaf and baked potatoes; and then ham, scalloped potatoes, rolls, green beans, and lemonade cheesecake at school

Long version: I made the meatloaf and baked potatoes mostly to have leftovers for after work the next day, but they also ended up feeding Jack and A., who stayed home while the rest of us went to the school Christmas program. 

I also gave Jack the leftover birthday pudding. Poor guy. He was bummed to miss out on performing "The Gingerbread Dude" Reader's Theater his class was doing.

Poppy sang a seasons song and "Jingle Bells" with her preschool class. Calvin recited part of a sort of cowboy "Night Before Christmas" his teacher wrote, as well as performing the chicken dance and "Jingle Bell Rock." Cubby's job, as part of the FFA that was hosting it, was to set everything up, serve dinner, assist with the auction, and clean up.


Short version: Leftovers, cake

Long version: Oh man. I was so deliriously tired when I got home after work. Poppy and I had gone to the church to decorate the Christmas tree there, so we didn't get home until after 5 p.m. I heated up leftover meatloaf and potatoes, plus rolls from the school cafeteria and some of the posole that had been lunch at school. We also had baby carrots, because I came home with much of the fresh vegetables from the school salad bar. Then the kids had some of the chocolate cake that Cubby had bid on and won at the auction the night before.


Short version: Spaghetti with meat sauce, posole, carrots and bell peppers, molasses cookies

Long version: I found a bag of meat sauce in the freezer when I was cleaning them out that I think was some from the school cafeteria I froze awhile ago. I had two big, hard, tasteless tomatoes from the salad bar that I had brought home, so I diced those and microwaved them to get them soft, mashed them with a fork, and added them to the meat sauce along with garlic powder, more salt, and dried basil. That was for the children.

A. had more posole.

I had a salad with mostly things from the salad bar--spinach, pickled beets, carrots, cheese--plus the last small bit of meatloaf and some pecans. And I made the dressing with olive oil and the way too vinegary juice from my own pickled beets. I tried a new recipe for them this year that uses less sugar, but it made them almost inedibly vinegary. The brine is good for salad dressing as a vinegar substitute, though.

I don't know about at your house, but Christmas excitement is running high around here.

Poppy's drawing of our family with a Christmas tree reminded me of the Whos in Whoville around their tree.

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

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Weathering the Blast

I have found it very amusing that in the past couple of decades, the weather has gotten very histrionic. Or rather, the weather hasn't changed so much as the weather reporting. This most recent "arctic blast" is a case in point. I mean, I know it's colder than usual, but the name is sort of ridiculous.


It's cold. And I know it's cold all over the place. Here, it was 3 degrees when I got up this morning, with a wind warning. Which meant our temperatures were forecast to feel like twenty below zero today. And that meant that the last day of school was canceled before our Christmas break began.


Of course, that resulted in an absolutely insanely busy day at work/school yesterday. But after we got through finals for Cubby; A. driving the school bus for the whole school to go caroling in the village; hastily arranged last-minute parties for the classes; helping the school cook close down the kitchen for two weeks; AND decorating the church Christmas tree after work . . .

Then I could come home and get ready for the cold weather. 

That included hanging a blanket over the drafty east-facing window in the living room that the wind was hitting full force. 

Moving the dog crates (and the dogs) into A.'s office temporarily. There are only a few nights a year they need to be in, and these two are some of them.

And today, my cold weather activities included baking molasses cookies for about two hours. I made a double batch of this recipe I posted last year, which means I actually made a batch similar in size to one that Grandma Bishop would have typically made.

Poppy insisted that some of them should be heart-shaped, "because Christmas is all about love."

Grandma Bishop's granddaughter--that would be the MiL--gave me a cookie jar for Christmas this year*. I asked for it, so I knew what had come from her. And I decided she wouldn't mind if I opened my gift early so I could fill it with her grandmother's cookies.

And that is just what I did.

In the recipe I posted, I noted that the original giant recipe was the sort of thing farmwives made to fill their cookie jars. That turned out to be accurate, as the whole recipe filled that jar, with a few left over for the kids to eat while they watched The Princess Bride.

Obviously, they're living their best arctic blast life.

So tell me: Are you being blasted? And if so, how are you weathering it?

* Thanks, MiL! I love it. And so do your grandchildren.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

A Very Handy Recipe

Maybe this isn't true for every household, but in ours, it's surprisingly annoying to be without bread. Thanks to my foul flour situation, we have been without bread for five days now, and it has made me realize how reliant I am on it for quick meal additions. Toast is a lot faster than fried potatoes in the morning.

I still had two cups of flour from the bit Ms. Amelia gave me to make Jack's birthday pancakes on Sunday, though. And while two cups wouldn't get me very far with sourdough bread--each loaf takes at least four cups--it is enough to make this quick bread. 

I found this recipe a long time ago when I was searching for a way to use up the large quantity of quick oats and white whole wheat flour that we kept getting from excess commodities. I really like it because it's not as sweet and cakey as most quick breads--banana bread, I'm looking at you--but it has enough honey and dairy in it to make it a stand-alone bread. It's delicious with butter and jam, but it can also be eaten by itself.

I've changed some things in the recipe (of course), including doubling it for two loaves and nixing the unnecessary oats on the top and bottom, so this is what I do.

Full-Fat Honey Oat Quick Bread


2 cups quick oats

2 and 2/3 cups white whole wheat flour

2 cups all purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2.5 teaspoons salt

2 cups full-fat plain yogurt

2 eggs

1/2 cup coconut oil or butter

1/2 cup honey

1.5 cups whole milk


1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and grease two large loaf pans. (Use your butter wrappers!)

2. Melt the butter or coconut oil. I do this in a big Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. Mix in the honey. Add the yogurt and eggs and combine thoroughly.

3. In a big bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.

4. Dump the wet mixture in the big bowl with the dry mixture and combine thoroughly.

5. Add the milk and stir until just combined.

6. Scoop half the batter into each greased loaf pan and smooth out the tops.

7. Bake about 50 minutes, until it's brown on top and a butter knife comes out clean when you poke it in there.

8. Slide the butter knife around the edges to loosen the loaves, then let cool most of the way before removing.


1. I usually freeze one of these, which is why I make two. So handy to be able to pull one out later without baking again.

2. I've never made these as muffins because I loathe cleaning my muffin tin, but I suspect this batter would be very good for muffins.

3. Because of all the dairy in it, I store this in the refrigerator. You can toast to heat slices, or use a microwave.

4. My children love this with butter and peach jam. It is, indeed, astoundingly delicious warmed in the microwave to melt the butter and then slathered with jam. Almost like cake. But way healthier.

I didn't take a photo of this when I made it yesterday, but here's one of Jack and Poppy enjoying a woodstove picnic, which later included a slice of this very bread.

Jack had a sore throat (the dreaded mucous season has definitely arrived), so I made them a fruit shake* and they drank it by the fire. Because the only way to drink something that cold in December is to be three inches from a heat source.

* For some reason, I dislike the word "smoothie." So I call them fruit shakes, which will probably ensure lifelong confusion for my children.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

I'd Like a Word

Not long ago, I found ten-pound bags of unbleached Gold Medal flour on Amazon for not too much more than I pay for the Sysco flour from the school. The Sysco flour is bleached, so I thought I would pay the nominal extra money to get unbleached flour.

And then it arrived. And it smelled like detergent. Which meant anything I made from it tasted like detergent.

I was very upset.

This is something I first started noticing maybe ten years ago. Sometimes the produce I would buy at the very small grocery near Blackrock would taste like perfume to me. Apples particularly had this problem.

I have also noticed it with crackers, cookies, and, as in this case, flour. Anything that is prone to absorbing odors will pick up this disgusting taste of chemical fragrance. Most of my issues with this have been with small grocery stores. My guess is that it happens when these items are stored in a warehouse or truck with cleaning supplies or whatever that have artificial fragrances in them.

I'm very sensitive to it, and it grosses me out. I can't ignore it. Which is why I was so mad that the FORTY POUNDS of flour I ordered was unusable. Particularly because I had no other flour on hand, and no way to get it easily. 

This of all weeks is not the week I can afford to be low on flour. This is one of the biggest baking weeks of the year. I use a LOT of flour in the week leading up to Christmas, what with the bread for teacher and neighbor gifts, the molasses cookies, and all of Jack's birthday requests. I had to borrow flour from Ms. Amelia to make pancakes for his birthday breakfast, and he had to choose a runner-up dinner because the pizza he wanted was a no-go without usable flour.

This was meant to be five loaves of bread for teachers, and Jack's birthday pizza.

Instead the chickens got all five loaves, and I baked the pizza dough in these pans for the chickens as well. Lucky chickens.

I will note that Amazon gave me a full refund on the flour without requiring me to return it. But still. Not cool.

Have you noticed this issue with flour or other foods in recent years? 

Update: I can't believe this, but I bought flour from the tiny store in the village yesterday, and when I got it home, it too was contaminated with artificial fragrance. (I couldn't exactly sniff it suspiciously in front of the store owner.) I was afraid it would be, because I could tell from the brand that the store owner got it from a dollar store, and sure enough, it too is unusable. It's a plague.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Snapshots: The Annual Tree Expedition

We have once again braved the wilds of the New Mexico range to cut our Christmas tree. Come along for the fun . . .

First we stopped to see this abandoned adobe house on the neighbors' property. 

It's owned by our post office lady, and she told us we should go see it. So we did.

It was only about 10 a.m., and the children were delighted to find that the dirt tank near the adobe house was still frozen enough to skate on around the edges. Their cowboy boots were excellent skates.

Jasper elected to stay off the ice and monitor their activities with me from a distance.

The road to the tree area.

I left A. and the children playing at yet another dirt tank and wandered over whatever the Western equivalent is to hill and dale, searching for a good tree.

Actually the western equivalent to hill and dale is cacti and rocks. It's a bit tricky looking for a tree while still watching my feet. I found one, though!

Destined for our living room.

The view standing next to the tree.

A. performed his annual tree-cutting duty.

With Jasper's enthusiastic assistance, of course.

And away we went with our (soon-to-be) festive tree.

A. got it in the stand, and I put the lights on, but the kids put on all the ornaments.

The star is also A.'s job, because he doesn't need to stand on a chair to get it on top.

Enjoying the fruits of their labors.

There you have it! Our Christmas tree, snapshotted.

P.S.: Today is Jack's 8th birthday. Yay!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Friday Food: A Custard Hat Trick


Short version: T-bone steaks, rice, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: The steaks from the most recent cow we got are perfect. Perfect thickness--I got 2-inch steaks last time and that was too thick, but this time I went with 1.5 inches--perfect size, perfect marbling. So good.

I forgot I still had some ranch dressing in the refrigerator that was actually made with the last of the fresh dill that had been hanging out in a jar of water for weeks. Which means I can make fresh dill last until almost Christmas. 

I find these sorts of things fun, yes.


Short version: Pizza, carrot sticks

Long version: Anything interesting about this pizza? Not particularly. I used a bag of roasted tomato sauce for the sauce on them, which is always a good idea. One of them had diced leftover steak on it, so that was pretty fancy.

And I had just enough ranch dressing left for the one child who likes it with his pizza. So long, dill. See you next year.

An old photo of exuberant green beans, just for auld lang syne.


Short version: Bull enchilada casserole, baked custard

Long version: Soldiering on using the bull, even though our new, shiny beef is much more appealing. I had a bag of prepared bull in the freezer. "Prepared" means it was pressure-cooked until tender and then food-processed to shred it up. Even then, it can't be used in anything where you're going to get a big mouthful of it. It's just too chewy.

Enchiladas are a good use for it, because the meat is a thin layer. And enchilada casserole is way less trouble than actual enchiladas.

A. always likes more sauce than I do, so this time I indulged him and used an entire quart jar of pureed tomatoes to make the sauce (onion, cumin, garlic powder, chile powder, green chile, vinegar) for a 15"x10" pan of casserole. Some of the sauce went in with the bull meat and a can of black beans, and then I layered sauce, meat, corn tortillas, more sauce, cheese, etc. 

Everyone likes this, and I really should make casseroles more often. They feel like a lot of work to put together, but it can be done ahead, and making a big one is almost no more time than making a smaller one. And then there are leftovers. Which you know will be featured later on a work day. 

Any casserole recommendations for me? I have about two hundred pounds of ground beef to work with.

I did not overbake the custard. Yay for me!


Short version: Leftover enchilada casserole, cookies

Long version: I found a container of snack cookies I had forgotten were in the small freezer over the refrigerator, so I took those out and the kids had a couple after dinner. Because why not? Every Monday is improved by cookies.

A. had leftover steak and rice, to make sure there was enough of the casserole for the kids. And because he likes steak.


Short version: Shepherd's pie, maple custard

Long version: Cubby had been sick and not eating much since Thursday. No stomach troubles, just a limited appetite and a bad sore throat. I was trying to make relatively soft things he could eat. Shepherd's pie worked.

As did the custard. This custard is much different than the baked custard I usually make. It only has four ingredients--milk, maple syrup, whole eggs, and salt--and is a much thinner, softer custard because there's no cream or extra egg yolks. I don't think it's as good, but it's certainly much easier to make. And I didn't overbake this one, either. 


Short version: Baby shower food, leftover shepherd's pie

Long version: Poppy and Jack stayed at school with me for a baby shower. There we had smoked beef sandwiches, coleslaw, fruit kebabs, pigs in a blanket, and an impressive variety of tiny cupcakes.

The three at home had the leftover shepherd's pie. Also some of the cupcakes we brought home with us.


Short version: Birthday Frito pie, pumpkin custard with whipped cream

Long version: Happy birthday to A.! I didn't actually ask him what he wanted for his birthday dinner, since I was somewhat limited by the fact that I was at Cubby's basketball game with all the kids and we all got home around 6 p.m.

I knew I wouldn't be there to make dinner in the evening, so I made chili in the morning so we could have dinner ready ten minutes after I walked in the door. Not the most elegant of birthday dinners, but tasty.

The pumpkin custard was a double recipe of the filling for this pumpkin pie recipe, baked in a 13"x9" Pyrex. I used our own pureed squash, of course, and it was very good. Very rich too, what with the six eggs and almost three cups of cream in it.

Custard is sort of hard to festively decorate, but it will at least hold birthday candles.

A. was obviously not turning six years old, I just put a row of candles for each digit.

With the pumpkin custard, I was officially three for three in not overbaking my custards. A notable feat for me, indeed.

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

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Tradition Carries On in Song

For the eleventh year in a row, we must sing to the birthday boy. 

That's A., in case you didn't know. And the song we always sing is one I write every year to the tune of "The Candyman Can." I call mine "The Woodchuck Man Can." 

The previous ten versions start here, and if you really want to, you can click your way through the past decade of songs. It might take awhile. That's a lot of songs.

Okay! Here we go!

Who can drive a schoolbus

Through the snow and ice?

Who can build a wall so my garden will look nice?

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 build a truck cage

To transport several lambs?

Who can fix the neighbor's chimney high above the rangeland?

The woodchuck man

The woodchuck man can

The woodchuck man can 

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

Happy birthday to A., the most useful woodchuck I know.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Season's Greetings from the Wild West

I never did do a Snapshots post on Sunday, but since many of my photos were of Christmas decorations, let's start there.

The wreath truck-loving Jack made at the school crafting event last week.

Saying he made it is kind of stretch, as in actuality he just chose the things to put on the wreath and pointed where he wanted them, and then I attached them. Because I didn't want him wielding a hot glue gun.

Ditto Poppy and the jars she made into candle holders.

The three in the middle are her new ones, and the two on the outside are older ones her brothers made a couple of years ago.

The jars are painted with glue, then rolled in Epsom salts.

I shocked all the women present by admitting that this was the first time in my life I had ever used a hot glue gun. What can I say? I dislike crafting. And although this was a fun event, I still don't have any great desire to hot glue things.


Although we have several festive decorations up, we do not have our tree. As you may recall if you've read here for awhile, we cut a real tree from a friend's ranch every year. But, since we leave it up until Epiphany--12 days after Christmas Day--I don't want to get it too early. So we usually wait until pretty close to Christmas.

I guess Cubby thought that was too long to wait, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. He brought in one of the many (MANY) tumbleweeds that are choking the fences everywhere . . .

So. Many. Tumbleweeds.

Propped it in an industrial-sized pinto bean can with some rocks, and decorated it.

The other children all contributed an ornament as well.

And then, of course, we had to adapt the song for the occasion. The best I could come up with was kind of lame, but the children liked it.

O Christmas weed, 
O Christmas weed
You blew across the prairie
O Christmas weed, 
O Christmas weed
You blew across the prairie

We brought you in
Inside a can
To celebrate
God as man . . .

I was informed that this cannot take the place of a real tree, and we must still get one of those so there's enough room for the presents underneath, but until then, we have a Christmas weed.

If I may appropriate another carol . . . It's beginning to look a lot like a Western Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Farewell To a Good Old Horse

Sadly, today we had to say good-bye to Samson

He was the horse all our children learned to ride on. He was extraodinarily well-trained, and had a remarkably gentle and steady temperament. I trusted him with my children, even when they were toddlers, and he never hurt any of them.


However, he was very, very old. We don't know exactly how old, but he was probably in his mid-20s, which is notably old for a horse as large as he was.

He came to us because his old teeth were no longer up to rangeland grazing. He spent his final years with us eating hay and senior horse feed, taking the children on rides, sometimes herding sheep, and hanging around with Bill the pony.

A pretty good horse retirement. But it had to end sometime, and now it has.

So long, Samson. You will be missed.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Friday Food: Catch as Catch Can


Short version: Pot roast, rice in chicken stock, coleslaw, pureed squash

Long version: I used the very last of the garden tomatoes in the pot roast.

Sayonara, my friends.

I also used the last two small cabbages from the fall garden in the coleslaw, leaving the squash as the only fresh produce left from this year's garden.


Short version: Barbecue beef, garlic bread, rice, leftover coleslaw

Long version: Leftover pot roast became the barbecue beef. I had made the garlic bread earlier in the day when I was baking bread, but then it all got eaten in the late afternoon, so I actually served rice with dinner.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, oven fries, canned corn, blueberry muffin cake

Long version: The first of our new beef I tried was ground beef to make cheeseburgers. They were really good. This cow we got actually had some fat, so the ground beef isn't too lean. YAY.

I used saved chicken fat to make the oven fries and they, too, were very good. Fat is the secret to everything.

I'm still trying to use up the old Sysco blueberries in the freezer, so I made a double batch of these muffins in a Pyrex pan. Because it was meant to be a dessert, I made a glaze for it with powdered sugar and lemon juice, which not one child liked. And half of them announced they don't like the blueberries, either.

Okay, then. Guess I won't make that anymore.


Short version: Leftovers, bread and butter, peaches

Long version: Pot roast, hamburgers, baked beans from the freezer, supplemented with bread and butter and, after dinner, canned peaches.


Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, tomato soup, leftover french fries

Long version: Poppy and I went to the dentist this day, and then out to lunch afterwards.

At a very old, and very cool, Mexican restaurant.

I got tacos, which had the option of additional "burnt cheese" listed on the menu. I suspected this would be something like frico, and sure enough, the waitress told me they fry the cheese on the pan, then add the tortilla, and then the taco fillings before folding it all up. 

I had to try it. It was delicious, although I think the extra fried cheese was unnecessary. Especially because the corn tortillas were obviously homemade and didn't need anything to make them tasty.

So much food.

As can see, my tacos came with a pile of french fries, none of which I needed after eating three tacos wrapped in fried cheese. Poppy's chicken quesadilla also came with fries. We brought all the leftover fries home, and I re-heated them in a skillet for everyone else to enjoy.

I myself was so full from my lunch that I didn't eat again for 24 hours.

The tomato soup was a big pot Cubby had made over the weekend. Three of the four children will eat it, which is pretty good for a soup.


Short version: Bean and cheese quesadillas, leftover sausage, peaches and cottage cheese

Long version:  We didn't get home from Mass until 5:45 p.m., after a work day for me. Which is why I made quesadillas for the kids with flour tortillas, canned refried beans, and cheese. They were happy with this.

Also happy with the peaches and cottage cheese. These were my canned peaches, which are WAY better than commercial canned peaches. Unsurprisingly.


Short version: Snacks, chowder, pasta

Long version: The family split for dinner this night. A. brought Calvin home from school and fed him before judo. He had pasta with meat sauce. I made it earlier in the day to use the rest of the ground beef from a couple of days earlier, and the last of the bag of roasted tomato sauce that had been hanging around for several days, along with just the pasta from two boxes of macaroni and cheese. This made something that looked very much like Hamburger Helper.

A. ate some salmon chowder I had made earlier in the day for Cubby, who was sick with a bad sore throat. He managed to eat some of the pasta, though.

Poppy, Jack, and I went to a holiday "make and take" event at school. We made different crafts--ornaments, wreaths, etc.--and ate finger foods, popcorn, and hot chocolate.

The finger foods: mini quiches, pigs in a blanket, and pizza rolls.

The two kids also ate some of the pasta when we got home.

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