Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday Food: Catch-As-Catch-Can Cooking


Short version: Tuna melts, cucumber with salt and vinegar

Long version: The children actually had the tuna melts. A. and I had a skillet tuna melt, which was just the tuna salad that was in the sandwiches, but with chopped green beans and cheese added. Surprisingly good.


Short version: Breakfast sausage patties, pigs' foot chile, rice, raw cabbage

Long version: I didn't have quite enough sausage for everyone, so A. and Cubby had the pigs' foot chile I pulled out of the freezer. I had a salad with some leftover taco meat.


Short version: Ram lap and mince, baked potatoes, pureed calabaza, cucumbers and carrots with ranch dip, pots de creme

Long version: I've had the piece of ram lap hanging around since we butchered the first ram, um, almost two years ago. I'm never too quick to cook the lap (it's from the breast) as it's a very fatty cut with not much meat on it. That's why I also cooked the pound of so of meat from the last ram we butchered that the children had helpfully cut into very small pieces for me.

I marinated both kinds of meat in olive oil, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt, then baked the lap covered at low heat for a few hours. I used some of the fat rendered from that to fry the bits of meat, to which I only added a bit more salt.

Both came out well, although only A. and Cubby appreciate the lap.


Short version: Chicken fried rice

Long version: I purposely made extra rice a few days earlier for this meal, which also featured the chicken I pulled off the carcass I made stock with over the weekend, as well as a piece of cooked chicken breast meat I found randomly in the little freezer. And the last of the onion the MiL cooked while she was here.

Sauteed chopped green beans, chopped broccoli, and green peas, the onions, then the rice, then the diced chicken, then the eggs scrambled in there, and then soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, and garlic powder.

A very large and full skillet of fried rice, which makes for tricky stirring.

I have no idea how to make fried rice, by the way. But since my children have never eaten it before, they have no basis for comparison and they think this is great. They ate every bit.


Short version: Food on the fly

Long version: I got a call in the morning asking if I could sub for a teacher, so I wasn't home to cook. I thought I had made a workable plan while I was riding the bus home, but I forgot we were out of milk and my plan would not work without milk.

So! Plan-Whatever-I-Find it is!

What I found was about a cup of leftover taco meat, another cup or so of leftover rice, and some pinto beans. With those, plus salsa and grated cheese, I made a skillet meal for the children. Three of them also had a tortilla with cheese. Raw cabbage for a vegetable.

There was one serving of the lamb mince left, which I heated up for A. with some feta cheese. I also microwaved a potato for him, and one for Cubby, who is running track right now and is extra hungry when he gets home from school.

For myself, I made two fried eggs and some pinto beans, which I ate with a corn tortilla and cheese. A. and I also had some pureed calabaza from the freezer.

And then the children topped it all off with a slice of bread and cream cheese each. 

This was my off week for a Misfits Market delivery. Good thing, because I came home this day to find we had gotten another delivery of excess commodities food from the lady who runs the program. And what did we get this time?

The handy sticker on the side of the box will tell you!

We also got a bigger box with non-perishable things in it, including the coveted canned peaches. Since we were also the recipients of eight pounds of cottage cheese from the school cafeteria (it wasn't even opened, but was expired, so it couldn't be used at school), A. has been very happily eating cottage cheese and canned peaches after dinner.

It took a couple of days for the children to notice this post-dinner treat, but when they did, they of course asked for some, too. I thought there was only one can of peaches, which A. had eaten by the time the kids noticed, but we had a happy surprise on Thursday. Stay tuned!


Short version: Fried pork and potatoes, sauerkraut, calabaza, cucumber

Long version: Another work day, but I had a better plan this time. Two cans of commodities pork fried in chicken fat with two diced microwaved potatoes, with onion powder and paprika. 

A. and I had ours with the half jar of sauerkraut still in the refrigerator. We also had the calabaza. The cucumber was for the children.


Short version: Barbecue pot roast, rice, pinto beans, roasted carrots, raw fennel, canned peaches

Long version: I made a chuck roast in the morning, sliced it, and heated it with barbecue sauce at dinnertime. 

Exciting? No. But certainly more effort than I made for most of the dinners this week.

I had just canned another batch of pinto beans the previous weekend, and one of the pint jars didn't seal satisfactorily. I wasn't sure there would be enough meat to go around in this meal, so I also heated up some of the beans with butter and vinegar, because Cubby particularly loves beans and rice. 

Turns out Jack was a big fan too, which is convenient since I still have about fifteen pounds of dried pinto beans in the pantry, and then got another two bags of them in the commodities box. We will be eating more beans in the future.

I found another can of peaches when I was actually putting away everything in the commodities box--I didn't get it all put away until I was off work this day--and I saved it for the children. They were very happy with this. Small joys.

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

T.T.: All About Animal Fats

Well, maybe not ALL about animal fats. This isn't going to be a comprehensive study of every type of animal fat, but I thought it might be a little helpful to have a brief overview of the more-common types of animal fats, at least.

At this very moment in my refrigerator, I have four different types of rendered animal fat: sheep, cow, pig, and chicken.

"Rendered" is the word used when the fat has been processed. That is, it is not straight off the animal. Rendered fat has been heated so that the pure fat separates from any impurities. Most of the fats I have right now have been rendered by the simple expedient of skimming liquids in which fatty meat has been cooked. 

The chicken fat came from the stock I made a couple of days ago. The beef fat came from cooking a chuck roast. The pork fat was from a shoulder roast. 

Chicken fat is the softest of all these fats. At room temperature--around 70 degrees--it will be more or less liquid. I use chicken fat mostly for things like roasting potatoes or making stir-fry.

Pork fat, called lard when rendered, is the next softest. Lard is the animal fat traditionally most used for baking. Leaf lard (that is, the fat from around the kidneys) is especially prized for this, as it is almost flavorless. I don't usually have leaf lard, so I use pork fat for frying.

Beef fat, called tallow when rendered, is fairly hard. It can be used in baking--traditional mincemeat calls for tallow--but does impart a flavor of beef and needs to be shredded to be incorporated. I use it for frying meat. Anytime I need to brown stew meat or something, I use tallow. I also use it for french fries or roasted potatoes.

Last and hardest is sheep fat, also called tallow when rendered. Some of it is more strongly flavored than others, and I use it like beef tallow.

Okay, so actually it's ram tallow. I like to be specific.

The relative hardness of the fats is good to know, because the harder ones need to be melted to be used easily. 

Also, beef and sheep tallow are much harder to wash off of dishes. Particularly sheep tallow. If you make a meal that includes a lot of sheep fat, you'd better have plenty of dish soap and boiling water to get anything it touches clean.

Last, I will note that the only wild animal fats I've dealt with--most wild animals don't have much fat to start with--are venison and elk. Those are pretty much like beef fat.

It occurs to me that I definitely should have posted this for Fat Tuesday, but I didn't think of it. A great opportunity for humor missed. 

Oh well. Have a nice Tuesday, fat or not.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Monday Bouquets: Courtesy of the MiL

When the MiL came to visit a couple of weeks ago, she brought some flowers from the grocery store. Most of them are now kind of sad-looking, but I pulled out the few that still look good and stuck them in this cool little pitcher thing Cubby found somewhere on our property next door.

Looks like spring to me.

The MiL also went for a walk with Poppy while she was here and was instructed by Poppy to bring back some dead weeds, presumably in imitation of the arrangement of them I had in the middle of the table. The MiL brought back an impressive quantity, stuck them in a random jar, and put them on top of a bookcase.

I'm pretty sure she was only doing this under pressure by Poppy, and therefore didn't take a great deal of care in their presentation, but they looked so interesting there by the lamp that I left them there.

As long as my view of the clock isn't blocked, it's fine. I hate it when I can't read the clock.

Thanks for the beautification, MiL!

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Snapshots: Yay, Spring!

In honor of the Vernal Equinox, I present to you . . .


Dutch iris!

Cabbages and kohlrabi starts planted outside! (Under milk jugs, because they need shelter from the sun and wind as much as from the cold here.)

And exploring lambs.

There you have it! My (spring) life, snapshotted.