Saturday, June 11, 2022

Book Talk: A Question for You

I'll be back next week with a list of middle/high school fantasy books. But in the meantime, I have a question for you: What is your favorite book?

My kids ask me this all the time. This is a very hard question to answer, but I usually say A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because it is one I consistently re-read, about once a year.

What's yours? 

Friday, June 10, 2022

Friday Food: Steak, Steak, Steak


Short version: Leftover pork stir-fry

Long version: Nah. Have an asparagus forest photo instead.

The spears you buy at the store are the beginnings of the plant in the spring that you cut before they can form the fronds from those little triangular flaps on the spear. After the season for eating the immature spears is done, the plants are left to grow into this, then cut at ground level when they die down in the winter. The spears re-appear above ground again in the spring.


Short version: Top sirloin steaks, fried bread, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I never seem to remember that top sirloin has no bones, and very little fat or gristle. Which means I really do not need two packages of them. LOTS left over. Not that leftover steak is a bad thing.

Being out of potatoes makes for some different starchy sides. I briefly considered making cornbread or something before punking out entirely and frying some slices of bread with butter on the griddle pan while the steaks were resting.

I mostly made a vinaigrette for the salad because I was cleaning out my cabinets and discovered a very old promotional container of French country vinaigrette spices. It was so dessicated, I had to gouge it out with a butter knife, but it did make a nice salad dressing with vinegar and olive oil.


Short version: Italian-ish steak, bread and butter, raw snap peas, pots de creme

Long version: I knew that leftover steak would come in handy. I sliced it and warmed it in a skillet with about half a can of the commodities low-sodium spaghetti sauce (with salt added :-), plus a cube of frozen pesto, and then topped it with some shredded asadero cheese.

Snap peas from the garden, hooray!

Incidentally, although I proved pots de creme can be made with evaporated milk, I do still make it with whole milk when I can.


Short version: More leftover steak, tuna salad, bread and butter, instant mashed potatoes, raw snap peas and radishes

Short version: This time I just re-heated the steak in bacon fat on the stove. 

This is the first time I have ever made instant mashed potatoes. We got a big bag of them from someone, and I accidentally opened them thinking they were dry milk, so I've had a half-gallon jar of potato flakes in my pantry for a couple of months now. I made them according to the proportions on the bag, but they seemed really grainy, so I added lots more milk, plus a bunch of butter. 

Four of the six family members ate them, and A. noted the nostagia factor of eating something that brought him right back to his school cafeteria.

I remembered the taste too, although I could do without it. Not bad for an emergency side dish, though, I suppose.

Snap peas from the garden, radishes . . . not.

A pleasing color combination.


Short version: Steak fajitas, frozen peas

Long version: Finally, the last of the steak. This was an uncooked top sirloin that had been hanging around the refrigerator. I cut it into small pieces--real fajitas are in thin slices, but longer pieces are harder for my kids to eat--and marinated that with vinegar, salt, cumin, chile powder, and garlic powder for an hour or so before frying it with bell pepper slices from the freezer, and onion slices. 

I think fajitas are usually served in flour tortillas, but I was not in the mood for rolling out a bunch of flour tortillas, so everyone had to make do with storebought corn tortillas. They survived.


Short version: Pizzas, coleslaw

Long version: The stars aligned for pizza. The first and most important star was that I was making bread, so I could just steal some dough for the pizzas.

The second star was that I had a partial can of commodities spaghetti sauce in the refrigerator that needed to be used. Pizza sauce seemed like a good idea. (And no splashing sauce, because now I'm smart.)

The third star was that it was only in the 70s, so I could bake at high heat without wishing to douse myself with a fire extinguisher.

The fourth star was that I had most of a giant block of asadero cheese that really needed to be shredded and frozen already.

One pizza was just cheese, one was with bacon and cooked onion.

Coleslaw because I had six cabbages in the garden that needed to be harvested, and one had already split. That one went into the coleslaw. And then after I cut up the tiny bit of onion I needed for the coleslaw, the rest of the onion got cooked in the bacon grease for the bacon and onion pizza. 

So many stars! So much alignment! Such good pizza!


Short version: Spanish tortillas, leftover coleslaw

Long version: We had a build-up of eggs again, but Spanish tortilla takes care of over a dozen of them. This one only had onion, bacon, potato, cheese, and eggs. I like them better with tomatoes, too, but the only tomatoes I had were green ones on my plants.

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

T.T.: The Best Summer Snack

Anyone with children knows that the continual refrain of summer vacation is, "I'm hungry." All day.

Given the amount of cooking I do to prepare three meals every day for six people, I am not very enthused about preparing snacks as well. That's why snacks for my children are almost exclusively nuts or fruit. Both of these things require no prep from me (well, except for if I make spiced almonds), which is key.

We often don't have fresh fruit, though, so nuts are the staple snack in our house. And this summer, the reigning nut is roasted, salted peanuts in the shell.

We used to get these when we were on the beach at Blackrock in the summer. I bought two bags of them online just a few weeks ago, because they really are the perfect summer snack.

Why? I'm so glad you asked!

First, they're relatively healthy. They satisfy the desire for a tasty, salty, fatty snack, but don't actually have any weird ingredients or sugar. And they have protein.

Second, they're relatively cheap. You can get five pounds of peanuts for less than ten dollars. That's a LOT of peanuts for not a lot of money. (I bought two five-pound bags because I had no clear idea of how much five pounds of peanuts actually is. It's a lot. I have a lot of peanuts.)

Third, they're fun. Eating peanuts in the shell is a social activity, with everyone sitting around shelling nuts and sharing the excitement of finding the coveted triple-peanut, or the disappointment of dropping the peanuts and losing them to the dog.

Because of the mess involved in shelling the peanuts, they're best eaten outside. Which is of course where you want your kids to be in the summer, anyway.

So, if you're having a party outside soon, or just have a bunch of kids hanging around requesting food all day, go ahead and get a big bag of roasted, salted peanuts, set up a bucket somewhere in the middle of a bunch of chairs . . .

A rubber livestock feed pan works for us.

. . . and enjoy one of the great pleasures of summer.

Poppy approves.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Snapshots: The Bottom of the Barrel

I left my cell phone at school when I went in to work the other day, which means I'm left with whatever photos were already on it before I forgot it. And that is . . .


The books currently on my bedside table shelf.

All four children absorbed in books in the school library while I was working last week.

A very amusing photo of Jasper when we were on our way home from the canyon a couple of weeks ago.

And our road, stretching into infinity.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.