Saturday, May 28, 2022

Book Talk: And Now, for Something Different

I should have a list of middle/high school fantasy here. And I have many things for that list! I just, um, didn't actually write it out yet.

So instead, here are two recommendations for grown ups. And they're both cookbooks. 

The Old World Kitchen: The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking by Elisabeth Luard--I saw this randomly online and ordered it on impulse, despite the fact that it is no longer in print and was fairly expensive. Worth it. It's a giant book--over 500 pages--and has just enough background information and chatty personal experience from the author to make it readable even if I never make any of the recipes. But I probably will try some of them. Cubby's been wanting to try Yorkshire Pudding thanks to James Herriot, and that recipe, along with hundreds more, is in this book.

This is what Jasper thinks of veterinarians. He'd probably enjoy Yorkshire pudding, though.

Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivant--Woah, that was long. I used to can a lot (some of you may remember end-of-year tally posts), but lately I've gotten more interested in other, older methods of food preservation. I hadn't yet found a really good guide to those methods, however. This is a good one. Centre Terre Vivant (The Living Earth Center) is a French organization (I guess that's the word) that solicited recipes from the readers of their magazine. This book is the collection of those. It's pretty thorough, and definitely has things I have never seen anywhere else, some of which I intend to try.

What would you add to this list of non-mainstream cookbooks?

Friday, May 27, 2022

Friday Food: Company Food


Short version: Corn dogs, tater tots, peach cobbler, radishes

Long version: The school cook sent me home on Thursday with all the leftovers from the last lunch at school for the year. That was the corn dogs, tater tots, and peach cobbler. I added the radishes.

So yes, for our first day of summer vacation, we had cafeteria food for dinner. Whatever. A. was gone in Las Vegas for his sister-in-law's memorial service and I didn't feel like cooking. 


Short version: Ground beef and bean chili, bread and butter

Long version: I have definitely cracked the code on my children's favorite chili. I made it the same way I did last time, and now I can't make it again until fall. Because the secret ingredient is pureed calabaza, and my calabaza plants are currently about an inch high.

It would have been much more appropriate to make cornbread, but A. was still gone and I didn't want to. So there.


Short version: Lamb ribs, rice, green salad with ranch dressing, chocolate cream pie

Long version: I had been promising Cubby lamb ribs for weeks now, but it was too hot for the long cooking in the oven they require. It cooled down so much this weekend that I was running the woodstove, so I figured the time had come to cook the lamb ribs.

I actually used fresh dill and fresh garlic for the ranch dressing. I must confess that I actually considered making it the way I usually do with dried dill and garlic powder before I overcame my lazy inclinations and took the few minutes to get the fresh stuff from the garden and chop it up.

It was Cubby's turn to choose dessert, and I found the pie dough in the freezer from when he made a double batch for rhubarb pie a few weeks ago and froze the extra. 

The chocolate cream pie recipe I used had two steps in it that usually cause me to abandon a recipe immediately: separating eggs, and using my hand mixture.


We are awash in eggs right now, so I figured a recipe that used four at once was a good one. The recipe was from my old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and actually called for using the yolks in the pie filling, and the whites to make a meringue for the top.

Since another thing I hate is having separated egg whites in my refrigerator, I went with the meringue.

It was okay. The pudding part was good, of course, but I thought the meringue made it too sweet, and I guess I find the pie crust to be extraneous. I would rather just eat a bowl of pudding. The children, however, all loved it, which is all that matters.


Short version: Sausage, spaghetti, radishes, green beans

Long version: When the MiL came a few months ago, she brought a package of hot Italian sausage with her, which I decided to cook this night. Since it was a pretty small package, and there are members of the family who definitely do not appreciate a lot of spice, I also made some of the Sysco breakfast sausage.

Still working through the dozen or so boxes of spaghetti that have accumulated from excess commodities. This time I sauced it with some leftover pizza sauce I had frozen, a cube of frozen pesto, and a bit of cream. 


Short version: Pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, baked carrots, green peas

Long version: My parents came for a visit, so I made them some heavily Teutonic food. Country ribs slow cooked with a jar of sauerkraut, and then another jar of sauerkraut baked separately, because sauerkraut totally disappears into the juices when it's slow cooked with meat. 

My mom brought me some very cheery flowers for my table.

The only greenery and color we're seeing these days has to be storebought. Boo on drought.


Short version: Ram gyros, homemade pita, homemade tzatziki, not-homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie with whipped cream

Long version: I took out one of the boneless leg roasts from the ram, marinated it in olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Roasted that at high heat for about an hour, then sliced it thinly.

This recipe for the pita bread.

This recipe for the tzatziki.

And the pie that is always left for my parents by the owner of the place they stay when they're here. It's really good pie.


Short version: Steaks, dill potato salad, green salad with tzatziki/ranch dressing

Long version: Good thing I had already planned on something relatively quick to make, because we went down a canyon in the afternoon to hike and play in water and didn't get back until about 4 p.m.

Jasper spent the whole ride home smack between my feet. No doubt comforting for him, but somewhat uncomfortable for me.

I used the leftover tzatziki sauce and added a spoonful of mayonnaise and a bunch of chopped dill to make it into something more like ranch for the salad. It had more bite to it than the usual ranch dressing I make, but it was still good.

This potato salad, but with half the sugar.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

T. T.: Disney Before the Decline

I know I'm not the only one who considers the best Disney movies to be the old ones. I don't know what changed at the company around the 1990s, but when they started putting out snarky movies like Aladdin that were meant to appeal to adults as well as kids, I totally lost interest. 

Happily, there are several Disney movies from the '50s and '60s that are just as appealing to kids as they ever were, and are, in my opinion, much more appropriate for them. 

Here's my list of what I consider the best Disney movies for kids.

1) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh--For the littlest, but even my older kids like this movie still.

2) Robin Hood--There are so many good characters in this movie: Sir Hiss, Lady Cluck, the little rabbits . . .

3) The Sword in the Stone--I don't remember watching this one a lot, but my boys love it.

4) The Jungle Book--The newer live-action CGI version is visually cool, but way too dark for kids in my opinion. The original animated one is perfect.

5) Lady and the Tramp--Who could forget the menacing Siamese in this movie? Or the iconic spaghetti scene?

6) Beauty and the Beast--The only "modern" Disney movie (1991) that seems to me to be in the same tradition as the earlier ones.

What are your favorite Disney movies for kids?

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Snapshots: Welcome to the West

The older boys decided to build themselves a treehouse in the tree near the casita. With the exception of hefting the completed platform into the tree, they did all the work themselves.

Their ladder needs a bit more support, I think, but it serves for now.

Snake season has definitely arrived. A. killed two bull snakes in the porch last weekend, and went with the kids to try to find a rattlesnake they said they saw on their after-church run.

They didn't find it again, but it was an exciting outing, anyway.

It never occurred to me that moving here would result in this next to my door, but here we are.

They have boots to match, too.

And I was informed, by the way, that I should never call them cowboy hats or cowboy boots, unless I want to sound like an Eastern nerd. They are western hats and boots, thank you very much.

The garden is coming along very nicely.

I even hilled the potatoes.

However, this week I noticed an infestation of what I think are blister beetles. Which will, of course, eat anything and everything, though they seem to be concentrated on my tomatoes and potatoes at the moment. I haven't seen a lot of defoliation yet, but I figure it's just a matter of time.

Given that, I decided it was time to let the chickens out. They've been incarcerated for a month or so, because they were wrecking my small, delicate plants with their scratching and search for bugs. But now that the plants are bigger and there are lots of nasty bugs, I released the chickens. I saw them back there already, so I hope they, along with us picking the beetles and drowning them in soapy water, will be enough.

It's always something.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.