Friday, January 28, 2022

Friday Food: In Which I Brand Myself


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, fresh bread, raw radishes and tomatoes, baked apples with cream

Long version: I was actually planning on giving the kids leftover lentil soup, but I took pity on them at the last minute and made the cheeseburgers instead. 

Dodged a bullet there, kids.

A. and Calvin were gone to the city for hunter education, so I made a dessert for the children left at home. Although baked apples are a sort of pseudo-dessert, since they're actually relatively healthy. Also easy, since I've been using the bags of pre-peeled and sliced apples that I froze in the fall when I had boxes of apples on hand.

Definitely need to do that again this fall.


Short version: Giant baked spaghetti, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: There seem to be infinity boxes of spaghetti coming with the commodities deliveries, lately, many of which have been passed along to us. Last time I made spaghetti, I only made half a box, and it was not enough. This time I made the whole box, and filled an entire 9x13 Pyrex with it, plus a meat sauce.

I made it ahead of time because this was our one weekend a month where we have Saturday Mass and don't get home until after 5 p.m. It makes for a late start to preparing dinner, so I try to have something made ahead of time.

Not a problem this time, however, as we all got in the Honda to go to church and found it was dead as the proverbial doornail. And without A. or the van here, I was very disinclined to try to jump-start it myself using the school bus.

Pile out, kids! No church this weekend for us!

It made for plenty of time to bake the spaghetti, though. And the children were very pleased with the great quantity on hand.


Short version: Oven-fried chicken, roasted potatoes, cucumbers with salt and vinegar, very lazy chocolate fondue

Long version: The travelers weren't returning until after dinner, so I decided to use the bag of extra rooster legs in a yogurt marinade I had put in the freezer last time I made this. There were only six, which would definitely not be enough for the whole family, but was enough for the reduced family.

The chocolate "fondue" was chocolate chips melted in the microwave with a bit of coconut oil, and half a graham cracker and a marshmallow each for dipping. A very popular--and easy--dessert option.


Short version: Tacos, bacon and egg sandwiches, frozen peas

Long version: I didn't have quite enough leftover taco meat for everyone, so I made bacon and fried egg sandwiches for A. and Cubby. 

Exciting? No. Tasty and filling? Definitely.

Possibly how Samson and Bill feel about hay. It's not as good as fresh grass, but it does the job.


Short version: Pork, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli, roasted beets, oatmeal cookies

Long version: Pork butt, cooked slow then pulled apart and fried in the rendered lard. The best way to eat this cut, in my opinion, because then it's tender, but not wet.

The corn on the cob was courtesy of Calvin, who gave A. some suggestions when they stopped at the grocery store on their way home from hunter education.

Broccoli and beets courtesy of Misfits Market.

I had the beets in a cast-iron skillet in the oven (that is, the foil-wrapped beets, just so no juice would drip onto the oven floor), which I pulled out of the oven and put on the stovetop while I was checking on the pork. When I leaned down to pull the pork out of the oven, my cheek touched the handle of the skillet that was slightly sticking out from the stovetop. The cast-iron handle of the cast-iron skillet that had just been in the oven.


It only hurt for a couple of hours, and isn't bad enough to have blistered or anything, but I do have an inch-long mark on my face, right near my ear, that is pretty noticeable, and will likely be there awhile given how long burns take to heal completely. 

So, yeah. I essentially branded myself.

In my long and varied history of cooking burns, this one takes the cake.

I made the cookies because the kids needed snacks to bring to school. I just used my standard chocolate chip recipe, except I substituted some whole wheat flour (I have about 20 pounds of it from secondary commodities that I'm trying to use up), oats (ditto commodities), peanut butter, and walnuts. 

Actually, those last two were commodities items, as well. If I made these cookies with raisins instead of chocolate chips, I could just use all commodities items and call them Commodities Cookies.

Except not all my kids will eat raisins in cookies, so I guess not.


Short version: Leftover spaghetti for the kids, leftover pork and a potato for the adults, cucumbers with salt and vinegar for all

Long version: I had planned this meal of leftovers for Wednesday because that's a work day for me. When we ended up staying home for our snow/Zoom day, it made for a very easy meal anyway.



Short version: White chicken chile, cornbread

Long version: I had never actually had white chicken chile before, but I had some vague idea it included white beans, which I have a bag of thanks to (CAN YOU GUESS?) commodities.

When I looked up recipes, I found that it's one of those popular recipes that rely on cans of things and rotisserie chickens. Often in a slow cooker.

Those sounded good, and certainly quick, but who wants quick when it's 61 degrees in the kitchen and simmering chicken carcasses all day provides some much-needed warmth?

So I started with the saved carcasses of two meat chickens that I had roasted in the summer. When I had removed most of the meat from those after roasting them, I put the remaining bones in the freezer, labeled "chicken for stock." Those two carcasses went in a pot with onion, celery, carrot, bay leaf, and peppercorns and simmered a couple of hours. After which I strained the stock off and returned it to the pot with some of the dried navy beans.

That cooked until the beans were soft. Meanwhile, I picked the remaining chicken off the bones and dumped that (about two cups) in with the beans, along with a sauteed diced onion and garlic cloves, three frozen cubes of the green chile sauce I made last Mother's Day, some cumin, oregano, and salt. 

Simmer, simmer, simmer, add sour cream and milk at the end.

If I ever write a cookbook, I'll call it Fifteen-minute Recipes Ready in Seven Hours.

It was good, though. And the magic of soup is that you can start with two throw-away chicken carcasses and a cup of dried beans, feed everyone, and still end up with almost a gallon of soup left over:

Stone soup, indeed.

Although I did end up frying yet more of the pork for those in the family who aren't too thrilled with soup. Or who can't eat too many beans.

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

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Remote Living: Snow Days

I woke up to at least four inches of snow this morning, which began the flurry of phone calls to the tune of "Will the School Buses Be Running Today?"

Patiently waiting for the answer.

In New York, school superintendents made the call regarding snow days based on whether the plows would be able to keep up with the weather. But that strategy is dependent on the roads actually being plowed at some point.

That is not the case here.

We do have snowplows here, but far fewer of them, and they don't even try to plow most of the roads in the county. Because there is only one paved road. That road is kept pretty clear, but all the innumerable dirt roads, to say nothing of the lanes and long, long dirt driveways that lead only to one ranch house? They don't even try to plow those. If you live at the end of a seven-mile dirt driveway, you get out in your 4-wheel drive, or not at all.

Most of our students are in the latter situation. A.'s bus route is over 100 miles every day. Exactly zero of the kids on that bus route live on the paved road. Almost half of the route is on unimproved dirt roads. 

And in addition to all of that, each of the buses (there are only two) has to go up and down a steep hill with switchbacks.

This is why, when we have snow or other bad weather, the superintendent calls the bus drivers to see if they think they can safely run their routes.

This morning, the answer was no. 

The sign says it all.

Luckily for the school in this age of COVID, all of the students have their own laptops, so it's easy to send the kids home with their computers when the forecast calls for inclement weather, and then make the call for virtual schooling in the morning.

Unluckily for the kids in this age of COVID, that means no more snow days.

It is much safer, though, and less nerve-wracking for the bus drivers. Because driving unplowed dirt roads for a hundred miles is no one's idea of a good time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

T.T.: The Island of Misfit Produce

Now that I've gotten three different Misfits Market boxes--and, perhaps more importantly, actually took a photo of one--I feel like I can give a pretty honest review of the service*.

Here's how it works: First, you have to check if they deliver to you. I can't tell you how shocked I was when Jack's friend's mom told me she gets it. She lives waaaaay out there on a remote ranch, so if they deliver to her, the definitely deliver to me.

Then you sign up for an account. You can place orders within a three-day window. You can set it up to have a Google calendar notification (or another calendar--there are I think three options) when you can start "building" your box, and they'll also send an e-mail notification.

Then you start shopping. There are pantry items along with produce and other things. A $30 minimum is required to complete an order. Payment will be automatically charged to the card you provide when you sign up, but if you don't put $30 worth of stuff in your order, the order won't be completed and you won't be charged. There are no weekly fees or anything. You only pay for what you put in the box, and only if you hit $30.

You don't have to order every week, either, just whenever you want. I've been getting a box every two weeks.

The produce can be combined with a wide variety of pantry items to reach the $30 minimum for an order. There are also things like meats, seafood, and dairy, but those have a separate $30 minimum for what they call a "cold pack."

So! Those are the details. And here are the specifics of how it has worked for me.

I've ordered two boxes of just produce. (I haven't tried any pantry items yet.) The vegetables are, for the most part, not wrapped in anything, which I love. I hate having to buy vegetables wrapped in layers of plastic at the store. The Misfits box looks like the CSA boxes we used to get. Most of the vegetables are just kind of in there.

With the exception of things like those tomatoes.

The boxes themselves are very, very sturdy. The entirety of the order within the box is wrapped in a sheet of brown paper with shredded cardboard or something sandwiched between it, for insulation. I'm not entirely sure what the shredded stuff is in the middle of the paper layers, but I do know it's all entirely burnable. Or, if you live in a normal place where you don't burn things, recyclable. Each box has one ice pack in it, and the produce both times has arrived to me still cool and not at all wilted. Even the lettuce and beet greens.

The produce in general is very good quality (with the exception of the Very Sad Pineapple). The apples have had a couple of dings in them, but they haven't been soft or notably bruised, and they don't start to rot or anything. It's all lasted two weeks once I get it with no problem. All of the produce is listed as organic.

The box pictured above was $39.45, and contained a head of cabbage, four beets--two of which were the size of softballs--three cucumbers, a small bag of snow peas, two pints of grape tomatoes, two big heads of butter lettuce, six huge Fuji apples, one big head of broccoli, and a bunch of radishes. That's a pretty good haul of produce, and it will last us two weeks.

One person signed up using my referral code a few weeks ago--thanks, Martha!--and I decided to put my credit towards one of the "cold packs." I don't have a picture of that one, but it contained Parmesan cheese, frozen cod, and frozen shrimp. The seafood is all labeled wild-caught. It came packaged in a plastic insulating bag with two extra cold packs, and was still completely frozen when it arrived. I'm saving the seafood for Cubby's birthday and Lent, so I can't speak to the quality of it yet. 

The quality of everything has so far been much higher than the things available at our local stores. Which is a pretty low bar, to be honest, especially for produce.

So is it worth it? For me, that's an all-caps YES. Being over 100 miles from a store means that we are almost always very low on fresh produce, because we just don't go to the store that often. Misfits Market carries things I can't easily find even when we do go to the store. The quality is better than what I can find locally. The prices are very in-line with organic produce. And I really appreciate how they've tried very hard to limit the plastic in their packaging.

Basically, if someone had set out to create a service that perfectly solves a problem in my particular life, they couldn't have done a better job.

Is it worth it for you? Well, I don't know. If you live far from stores like me, almost certainly. Or if the stores you can get to don't routinely carry organic, wild-caught, or fair trade items, and that's important to you, this might be a good option. If you're trying to stay out of stores for whatever reason, then also yes. Only you can answer the question of whether it would make sense for you, but if any of the above circumstances apply to you, I definitely recommend it.

And if you do decide to try it, you can use this link for $10 off (and a $10 credit to me, hooray for more vegetables!).

A sight that never fails to make me happy. I hope it makes you happy, too.

* No, they are not paying me. But if you click on that link, it will use the referral code linked to my account, which will get your $10 off your order, and me a $10 credit. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Snapshots: Lincoln Logs and Tumbleweeds

One day last week when the boys were at school, Poppy and I spent some time building a Lincoln Log village from the giant container of Lincoln Logs that Jack got for his birthday from the MiL.

I thought the MiL would like to see her gift in action. Also reader Susan, who mentioned that her older brother used to build with her.

 Poppy's brothers are not so nice. Luckily for her, I am. And luckily for me, the set came with instructions. I have many skills, but improvising Lincoln Log structures is not one of them.

And speaking of Poppy! And the MiL's gifts! 

One of the things the MiL sent in her boxes o' Christmas presents was a very cute wooly hat that is just the right size for a certain small girl I know.

Just the right colors, too. Her brothers aren't so into purple hearts.

I forgot to post a photo of the actual pie I mentioned in Friday's food post. And as we all know, photos or it didn't happen, so . . .

It happened, and it was pretty.

This year's summer rains and subsequent drought combined with unusually high winds has resulted in an inundation of tumbleweeds. 

Last summer I grew green beans here. Apparently this winter, it's the tumbleweed bed.

And last, as always, a morning walk photo.

A bull before sunrise.

There you have it! My life, shapshotted.