Saturday, July 2, 2022

Book Talk: The Big Question

I am in an ongoing battle with my children to not leave their books spread open upside down when they're not reading them. Bookmarks, children! Use bookmarks! Especially with giant hardcover books of some age! And no, using ANOTHER BOOK as a bookmark is not a good idea.

This, despite the fact that I remember leaving my own books all over the house when I was a kid/teenager in the damaging position. And I still have some of the paperbacks that have suffered because of it. 

Now that I'm a (completely amateur) librarian who has spent school money on brand-new books, I can definitely see how librarians got the reputation of being draconian about book care.


I always think I should have stacks of bookmarks all over the house so they're conveniently accessible. But then I think that I already have enough random pieces of paper around that can function as bookmarks and actual bookmarks would just join the other flotsam and jetsam that swirls around my house on a regular basis.

And now, for a poll!

How do you mark your place in your book?

A. With a bookmark, like a civilized person.

B. By leaving the book flat open and upside down, like my children.

C. By using your superior brain power and just remembering the page.

D. By turning down the corner of the page you're on.

P.S. Yes yes, I am punking out on an actual list again. I don't know why Saturdays always sneak up on me somehow. I'll do better next week. I hope.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Friday Food: Roosters and a Bull


Short version: Tuna salad, snow peas, giant dark-chocolate egg

Long version: It was hot and kind of muggy, so I didn't actually cook. It was a pretty unexciting meal, so I decided to take the dark-chocolate egg from the freezer. It was one my mother had sent at Easter, along with some truffles, but we had so much chocolate on hand I decided to freeze it for later. Good call.


Short version: Bull and potato skillet

Long version: We had our once-a-month Saturday Mass, and didn't get home until after 5 p.m. I had taken the other bag of prepared bull meat out of the freezer, so I just microwaved some potatoes, sliced them, and fried them and the bull with a lot of lard and butter, plus some already cooked diced onion, paprika, chile powder, salt, and garlic powder. Shredded cheese mixed in last. Serviceable, if unexciting.


Short version: Bull green chile stew, cheese, brownies

Long version: I used some of the prepped bull meat for this stew, along with the liquid from pressure-canning the meat, onion, garlic, green chile, potatoes, carrots, and some lamb's quarters I found outside. I need to remember, though, that this bull meat is NOT good in wet preparations. It gets all gloppy and soggy and really not very appetizing. I mean, we ate it, but it's really better to fry this bull meat with a lot of fat and crisp it up a bit.

Cubby chose the brownies for Sunday dessert. It had been a long time since anyone had picked something like that--they tend to ask for custards or puddings or something similar--and I was reminded that it's WAY easier to mix something up like that and put it in the oven for half an hour than mess around with water baths or stirring at the stove for half an hour. I don't have a square pan of the right size, so I just bake them in my non-stick cake pan and slice them like pie. Works fine, and if the pan is buttered, no parchment paper is needed.


Short version: Roasted roosters, garlic bread, green beans

Long version: Two of the roosters were deemed young enough by A. for roasting. These black-feathered birds were REALLY hard to pluck (birds with black feathers always are--the easy-to-pluck meat birds are white-feathered), and the skin wasn't edible due to the feather shafts that couldn't be removed all the way, but the skin at least kept the meat from drying out and resulted in some good fat. 

I salted both roosters overnight in the refrigerator, and then in the morning poured some lemon juice over them for a marinade. Before putting them in the oven, I smeared the skins with minced garlic and butter, then added some water to the bottom of the pan and roasted them until they were done. They were still pretty chewy in the dark meat portions, but then, roosters always are.  

I'm still a few weeks out from harvesting green beans, so these were from Misfits Market. A whole pound of green beans that I put in the oven to roast with the chicken, just with salt, garlic, and olive oil, and then when the kids were hanging around the kitchen waiting for the chicken to be done, they ate almost the entire pan of green beans. I barely saved enough for A. (I had a salad, so I didn't need any.)

As I have noted, kids will eat almost any vegetable right before dinner when they're really hungry.

Those four-person wrestling matches work up an appetite for sure.


Short version: Chicken fried rice

Long version: There's always a lot of meat left on the bones after a roasted rooster meal, even on the bones that have been eaten from, so I always save all the bones and simmer them to make more stock and remove the rest of the meat. It was this meat--about two cups--that I used to make this fried rice. I also used the chicken fat I had saved from the pan juices (always save the fat!). Plus some already-cooked onion, a clove of minced garlic, frozen green peas, soy sauce, vinegar, and ginger.


Short version: Fried pork and potatoes, sauteed squash/onion/tomatoes, raw cabbage, applesauce with cream

Long version: A can of commodities pork fried in saved lard (saved fat again!), then sliced potatoes, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and some lamb's quarters Jack brought me. The drought has been so bad that even weeds weren't growing anywhere but where I water, but he found some in an old herb bed that had been watered a bit. I chopped them up fine and put them right in the skillet, then added a bit of chicken stock to get those cooked all the way.

We got a commodities produce box Tuesday that included two hard Roma tomatoes and a yellow summer squash, so I combined that with a Misfits Market zucchini and some onion and sauteed it all in olive oil until it was soft. I love this combination. We don't have calabacitas yet (the zucchini-like immature squashes from the local plant), but when we do, I anticipate always having a mix of that, tomatoes, and garlic all cooked together. And all from my garden. 

The cabbage came from the garden. Home-grown cabbages really are so much sweeter and juicier than store ones.

I had two quarts of canned applesauce left from last fall, so I put one in the refrigerator to chill and let everyone have some of that for dessert with heavy cream poured right over the top. Always popular. 


Short version: Leftovers, leftover sauteed zucchini, cucumber

Long version: I had about a dozen meatballs in the freezer that I had cooked in the oven when I was roasting the roosters, along with some red potatoes from commodities. I also had some of the white meat left from the chickens I had used to make stock. So I heated those up in separate pans with some of the pesto I had made in the morning with the basil, which was threatening to flower.

We also had leftover rice, so everyone got to choose either meatballs or chicken, and rice or potatoes.

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

T.T.: Smell Be Gone

Our neighbors kindly offered us four extra roosters this past weekend, which A. picked up and duly killed on Saturday. It was cool enough for them to hang overnight in our porch, so we did that, because it helps to tenderize them.

And then came the butchering.

If you've never done it, butchering chickens is really gross. It's way grosser than butchering an animal like a sheep. And a large part of the grossness is the smell. Chickens--and all other birds--really don't smell like anything you might want to eat. The smell is particularly off-putting if they're dunked in hot water for plucking.

Also off-putting: Finding random chicken feet outside on the front step or on top of the chest freezer the next day. Thanks, kids.

A. usually just skins roosters, but this time he decided to pluck them. Or rather, he decided to scald them and then have the children pluck them. They did, but then their hands smelled like scalded chicken skin. And that smell is particularly hard to banish. Even after washing with soap and hot water, the smell still lingers. Yuck.

Cubby had a solution, though.

He had read in one of A.'s Fur-Fish-Game magazines that scrubbing hands with salt will get rid of the smell after handling and gutting fish, another odor notoriously hard to get out of the skin, as I know well. He figured if it works for fish guts, it would probably work for the chicken stench.

It did. Hooray.

So the next time you have to handle either raw chicken or fish and want to eradicate any trace of lingering smell from your hands, scrub them with salt before washing with soap and hot water.

Thanks, Cubby, And FFG.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Snapshots: The Homeplace

Jasper is delighted to be home again and is always ready for his morning walk.

Significantly fewer exotic animals on our road than on my parents' road, but also significantly cooler and quieter.

The hollyhocks are blooming!

It makes me very happy that I can see them (and my tomatoes) out of my bedroom window.

And the garden in general has grown quite a bit in the last week. I even ate The First Tomato yesterday, and no, I did not share it with anyone. Because I never share The First Tomato with anyone.

I planted cabbages in this bed, and then a bunch of potatoes came up here that we missed digging last year. So now they're all growing happily together. I call it my colcannon bed, and I love it.

And last, A. bought a truck. He hasn't had a pick-up since Big Red went to the big scrap heap in the sky many years ago. This is a 1990 Ford Ranger, which I think technically makes it an antique. It's just two years newer than the Ford Ranger (Little Red) A. was driving when I first met him twenty years ago. But it runs fine, and it was very cheap, and it gets great gas mileage, so A. is happy with it.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.