Friday, September 2, 2022

Friday Food: An Unusual Beginning


Short version: Gas station food and snacks

Long version: We went to Cubby's football game a couple of hours away in the afternoon. 

Nice day for some 6-man football.

I had brought a bunch of snacks--cheese, summer sausage, carrot sticks, pistachios, animal crackers, graham crackers--and that all got eaten on the ride there and during the game. So when the game was over at 4:30 p.m., we decided to stop on the way home to get dinner. We didn't drive through any big towns to get there, though, so our options were pretty limited. Our first and closest choice was closed, unfortunately, which led us to the Allsup's gas station.

Allsup's is a somewhat famous convenience store around here. They sell hot food along with standard gas station snack things. So the kids all got either chimichangas or grilled chicken sandwiches, plus chocolate milk.

There were no tables at this gas station, so they ate on the curb, watching the trucks go by.

Fine dining, indeed.

A. finished what the kids didn't eat, and I had some leftover pot roast when we got home.


Short version: Leftover chicken nuggets, posole, rice, cucumber and tomato salad, Otter Pops

Long version: The school cook sent me home with a gallon-sized bag of chicken nuggets the previous Wednesday, which I froze. We had our monthly Saturday Mass this day and didn't get home until almost 5:30, so I decided to use the nuggets. 

I re-heated them by frying them in cast-iron skillets of butter, which I suppose improved them, but I think I probably could have thrown them on the kids' plates stone-cold and they still would have been excited about eating chicken nuggets.

I did not share their excitement. I had fried eggs with salsa and half an avocado.

A. had some of his venison and tripe posole from the freezer. There were three half-gallon containers in there, so I figured I'd better start using some of it.

The Otter Pops were from the county fair parade. People on the floats just give our kids handfuls of them, and I throw whichever ones aren't already leaking into the freezer for some other time. This was the time.


Short version: Italian steak, spaghetti with roasted tomato sauce, roasted calabacita, carrot sticks, pots de creme

Long version: I used the tenderized bottom round steaks and cooked them like Swiss steak, except I added oregano and a bunch of fresh parsley to the tomato sauce. I only have the parsley because A. started a bunch of seeds, thinking they wouldn't do very well, but they really did. So now I have a LOT of parsley to thin out.

It was really good tomato sauce. Must've been the parsley.

And good tomatoes, of course.


Short version: Pork stir-fry, rice, cantaloupe

Long version: I had been planning on frying some of the commodities pork after work, but then the school cook gave me about a pound and a half of leftover pork from the cafeteria. It was fairly dry, and didn't have any sauce on it, so I decided to use it for stir-fry.

I used one bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables, and added to that some cooked mushrooms I had in the refrigerator, plus some frozen peas. And the same sauce I always make, which is just soy sauce, vinegar, powdered ginger, and peanut butter.

The cantaloupe came from the commodities lady. It didn't look too promising, but it turned out to be surprisingly good. I mean, if you like cantaloupe. I don't, but other members of the family do.


Short version: Bunless cheeseburgers, fried onions, boiled potato chunks, sauteed or raw green beans

Long version: It had been awhile since I had made cheeseburgers, and I was bummed to see that we don't have very much ground beef left. Need another cow, I guess.

The school cook had given me some leftover American cheese slices, which I used for these cheeseburgers. A. was particularly happy with this. A nostalgic taste, I guess.


Short version: Quesadillas, posole, raw green beans

Long version: I had made taco meat with some of the ground beef the day before, along with half a can of black beans. And someone had left a package of flour tortillas on the counter at school for the taking. So I took them and used them to make quesadillas with the meat and some cheese.

A. finished his posole from the freezer. And I had some of the taco meat with cooked green beans.


Short version: Fried rice

Long version: I really needed to make some space in my refrigerator, which means using up leftovers. Therefore, leftover rice, leftover pork stir-fry, and a couple of eggs to make fried rice.

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

T.T.: Roasted Tomato Sauce

For years and years, I made and loved Finny's tomato sauce. She called it The Best Tomato Sauce Ever, and it is. If you ever get a chance to make it just the way she does, you should.

But I don't make it the way she does anymore. There are a couple of minor changes I made so as not to use aluminum foil, but mostly it's different because I don't typically have red wine in the house, and I can't easily get it, either. So when I'm slammed by the tomato harvest that needs to be roasted and frozen pronto, and the nearest red wine is 60 miles away, this is what I do. 

First, I use Romas from my garden. They make the best sauce, because they have much more pulp and much less liquid in them than a slicing tomato. You can use slicing tomatoes, but they will take longer in the oven and yield less.

I cut off the stem end and then slice them longways, laying them on my half-sheet pans as I go until I've filled both pans with a single layer of tomatoes. I do not line my pan with foil or parchment paper, because I would rather scrub a pan than throw something away, but it is easier if they're lined.

After the pans are full, I mound all the tomatoes up in the middle of the pans and douse them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mixmixmix until everything is all coated, then spread them back out in a single layer.

Any recipe that tells me to toss vegetables and oil in a bowl before putting them on a roasting pan is immediately suspect. I do not want to wash an extra bowl for no reason. 

I also put a whole head of garlic right on each pan with the tomatoes. Again, I do not wrap it in foil because I don't want to have to throw the foil away. All I do is wash and rub off the dirt from the outside of the head, but if your garlic is from the store, it will already be clean.

Ready for the oven.

The pans go in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes. I scrape and stir the tomatoes around a few times. When they're done, there will be very little liquid in the pan and some char.

I scrape the tomatoes up into a pile while they're still hot, mostly avoiding the black spots but trying to get all the jammy spots of tomato.

After the pans are out of the oven, I let them sit for awhile so they're not burning hot. It's much easier to handle the pans and the tomatoes when they won't burn you on contact.

When they're cooled a bit, I dump the tomatoes into the food processor and scrape the olive oil in there, too. Because the garlic wasn't wrapped, it doesn't squish out of the skins. I can just pull the skins open and pull out the garlic cloves whole. Those go into the food processor, too, along with a handful of fresh basil leaves.

Here is where we come to the biggest difference: The wine. If I had red wine, I would certainly use it, because this sauce is best with it. But it's almost as good with balsamic vinegar, so that's what I use. About two teaspoons.

After everything is in there, it just needs to be pureed, checked to see if it needs more salt or vinegar, and that's it.


It makes a very thick, flavorful sauce, and it freezes perfectly in zip-top bags.

With very abbreviated labels.

What really makes this good is the method. The roasting concentrates the flavors and adds some caramelization that doesn't occur on the stovetop. All that garlic is key, too. 

It's best with wine, but the balsamic version is also delicious. I have even made it with cans of whole tomatoes--removed from the juice--dried basil, garlic, and the vinegar, and it's still good.

So even if you can't make it exactly like the original recipe, at least try roasting the tomatoes and garlic and see how you like it.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Snapshots: Canning/Football Season

Never having been a football fan, I didn't realize that the two seasons coincide. But they sure do.

When I got home from Taos, I found many tomatoes and green beans needing to be harvested and stuffed into jars. So I did that.

With some help from Little Pinkie, of course.

I had planned on canning three quarts of dilly beans, but since I had the giant pot of water boiling already to can the beans, I decided to stick a couple of jars of tomatoes in there, too.

I didn't even peel the tomatoes. The Ball Blue Book does not approve.

A few days later, there were more tomatoes, more green beans, and WOAH CUCUMBERS.

The giant ones were hiding on the other side of the fence behind the calabaza leaves. And that little curly green bean there was all curled around its own stem, like a snake. (There were more green beans, but I sent a bunch to Miss Amelia via the children.) 

Because those were the Armenian cucumbers, they were not at all bitter, despite their size. The skins weren't even tough.

I made them into refrigerator dill pickles, this time with Calvin as my helper.

He proved to have a great talent for jamming those jars absolutely full.

While I was dealing with the giant cucumbers, A. and Jack were helping our neighbor with her garden. That included picking grapes for her. She sent them home with many pounds of grapes. 

I knew the kids would never be able to eat that many grapes, so I suggested A. try making them into wine. They're green Thompson seedless grapes, which are definitely not a wine grape, but A. is always up for an experiment.

All of the children took turns smashing the grapes to release their juices.

And now the top of my woodstove looks like this.

Grapes for eating, grapes fermenting, tomatoes awaiting roasting, and meat defrosting.

The volunteer carrots continue to appear and grow to surprisingly large sizes. These two I pulled from the back garden under the roof's dripline.

Teaspoon for scale.

I didn't can those, though.

And last, football.

Cubby had his first game of the year on Friday, at a school about two hours away. We all went. They lost, but they learned a lot.

I took all of three photos, but one of them is actually an action shot.

The farthest kid in the white who looks as if he's about to hit the ground is Cubby. He's trying to get the ball on a kickoff here. He got knocked to the ground by one of the opposing players, but still managed to crawl to the ball and grab it. And I missed the whole play, because I was taking pictures.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.