Friday, January 27, 2023

Friday Food: A Very Beefy Week


Short version: Barbecue meatballs, baked beans, garlic bread, dilly beans

Long version: I only made two pounds of ground beef into meatballs, which made 18 meatballs. I wasn't sure that would be enough, so I also made baked beans using another of the giant cans of pinto beans we got from the school a couple of years ago.

We were pretty low on vegetables, which is why I went with dilly beans. Just emulating our pioneer forebears, who didn't have Misfits Market and relied on pickled vegetables in the winter.


Short version: Bull enchilada casserole, squash, cinnamon sugar crust trimmings

Long version: Still grimly working my way through the chewy bull. All of the boys agreed while they were eating this that they love casseroles, so it's certainly the most popular use for the bull meat.

The squash was one A. had bought a few months ago just because he liked the way it looked. It's been sitting in the corner of my entryway ever since. I finally got tired of seeing it there and cooked it. It tasted fine, so A. saved the seeds.

It was a very big squash. I put two quart bags of pureed squash in the freezer, used some to make a pumpkin pie for the next day, and still had a lot of squash in the refrigerator. We ate some with butter, but since only four of us eat it, it doesn't go very fast that way.

Well, four of us plus the chickens. They get the skins after I scoop out the flesh. They're not as picky as some children I know.


Short version: Shepherd's pie, pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Long version: An inadvertent Day of Pie. I made the pumpkin pie the day before because I had just baked that big squash and thus had lots of pureed squash on hand, and still had a ball of dough for a single pie crust in the freezer from Thanksgiving.

The shepherd's pie was a little bit unusual because I didn't have enough carrots for the meat part, so instead I put some of the pureed squash in there. Not enough that it was detectable, though. And instead of frozen peas, I used a can of green beans, because we get a ton of those from commodities. It made for a somewhat ugly meat mixture.

No one is eating this with their eyes first.

Very tasty, though.


Short version: Many leftovers

Long version: Enchilada casserole, shepherd's pie, baked beans, and squash all to choose from. Plus some still-frozen green beans for the children, who will never voluntarily choose squash.


Short version: Sirloin steaks, mashed potatoes, pureed squash, sauerkraut, still-frozen green beans, cookies

Long version: Am I perhaps leaning somewhat heavily on the frozen green beans for the children who generally dislike the winter options for vegetables (i.e. squash and sauerkraut)? Yes. But it's fine.

This week's cookie-jar cookies were kind of like the snack cookies, although I used sugar instead of honey in them, and used slightly more sweetener than the snack cookie recipe. They still had quick oats and peanut butter and walnuts and chocolate chips. There's a lot going on in these cookies. The children were very pleased with them, however, and I am always pleased when they're eating a cookie that has at least a small amount of protein in it. 


Short version: Hamburger-vegetable stew, bread and butter, cheese, grapes

Long version: I made this stew on Sunday just so I would have it for my work lunches this week. I guess you could also call it a soup, but it was really thick with a bunch of stuff, which is how I like soup. Anyway, it had a pound of ground beef in it, plus a quart of concentrated rooster stock, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, pureed squash, pureed tomatoes, the last of some already-cooked spinach that was in the freezer, and diced potatoes.

There wasn't quite enough for all of us--and I had had some at work for lunch--so I had hardboiled eggs mashed with butter, salt, and pepper, and scooped up with rye crisps. Very satisfying, provided there's enough butter in the eggs.

There was a Misfits Market box waiting for me when I got home, so we all had some grapes from that while we were waiting for A. to get home from his bus run.


Short version: Homecoming food

Long version: We always go to the homecoming basketball games at our school. There are four games (JV girls, JV boys, varsity girls, varsity boys) and then the homecoming court coronation. It's a LONG afternoon and evening. 

I did bring some food--walnuts, apples, and cookies--but I also let the kids each choose one thing from the concession stand for their dinner. Two got burritos, one got a hot dog, and one got Frito pie.

A. had to drive the school bus, so he went home after that and had a grilled cheese sandwich before coming to pick up the two kids who didn't want to stay for all of it. He got some nachos when he joined us at the school.

I ate the last few chips from the Frito pie, walnuts, an apple, and some granola when we got home.

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Growing Food: Grow Lights

Ellen asked me in the comments of the last post if I use grow lights. Little did she know a whole long post was coming on just that very topic! Lucky Ellen. And lucky you.

The short answer is: Yes, I use grow lights. Although I am as minimalist in gardening as I am in everything else, I do consider lights for my sprouted seeds to be an essential. The reason for that is just what Ellen mentioned in her comment. That is, the seedlings tend to grow too leggy and spindly trying to reach the light from just a window, and they're just not as healthy.

Healthy plants make for healthy tomatoes! That can then be used to make freaky faces. Yes, my idea of entertainment.

If I lived somewhere that was more conducive to starting seeds right in the ground outside, I would absolutely do that. Unfortunately, after a few years of trial and error (and dead plants), I have found that here, many of the things I really want to grow do better started inside and then transplanted. The sun+wind here makes quick work of any tiny sprouts that appear above the protective covering of the soil.

So I start indoors when I can, and I use grow lights.

I did not, however, buy these lights. I inherited them from Dale.

Dale is the guy we bought our house from. He lived alone, and was a man, and thus, had flourescent lights in the house. Like, right in the kitchen, casting their horrible glare upon all who entered that cozy heart of the home. 

I lost no time in removing those awful lights from my living space when we moved in, but of course I didn't throw them away. Instead I stashed them in the shop, which is where I rescued them from when I started seeds the very next year and needed some lights for the seedlings.

The lights were pretty small, but they were exactly the right width to span the wooden drawers of the bunk bed my grandpa made for my cousin Michael forty years ago.

Are you sensing a theme of hoarding and re-purposing?

That photo, by the way, shows an improvement A. made over the original set-up in which I had just balanced the lights over the top of the box. He screwed them into those boards to they wouldn't fall in the box all the time.


Eventually I got tired of having that big box in the corner of my dining room for five months and decided to instead put the box in the kids' bathroom. There's a space there under some cabinets that used to house the washer and dryer, so it's out of the way, warm because of the heating vent and small space, and right next to a water source for convenient watering of seeds.

And THEN, since there was this bigger space with a cabinet hanging right over it, A. had the idea to suspend some of the shop lights there to create a bigger area of light. The shop lights were also left by Dale. Because they were in the, um, shop, I didn't really notice that they were flourescents as well. But A. did, and he borrowed them from the shop and hung them in the bathroom last winter*.

Ever the innovator, that A. 

This works very well particularly because the lights (there will be another put up when we have more seedlings in here) are suspended on chains. This means the height of the lights can be adjusted. It's best to have the lights just above--like two inches above--the seedlings so they don't stretch to get to the light and get all spindly and weak. And of course, since plants grow (I know! the things you learn here), the lights need to be raised as they get bigger. Yay, chains!

This set-up is exactly what you're getting when you buy a seed-starting tower or something: Lights suspended above shelves for the seedlings. The great benefit of a purchased tower is that you can get something more contained that can sit in a corner of your house without taking up space.

The great drawback to a purchased tower is that they can cost hundreds of dollars. That might be worth it to you, depending on your situation. I myself avoid that sort of thing, as it quickly leads to a 64-dollar-tomato situation.

If you don't want to buy a purpose-built tower, you can probably construct something with flourescent lights from a hardware store. Depends on the space you have available, how handy you are, and how much you want to spend.

Now that the seeds are happily luxuriating in their flourescent sun, we can start to think about what happens when they go out into the wide world to be planted in the ground. And that means our next topic is . . . soil! 

Get excited, and see you next week for that.

* He also put them back in the shop in the spring when I didn't need them anymore, so the children could once again have a laundry basket in there for their dirty clothes.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Snapshots: Photogenic Sheep and Granola



A wall of tumbleweeds (which, yes, I drove right through, much to my children's delight).

Photogenic granola.

And a very belated birthday card from Poppy.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.