Friday, February 17, 2023

Friday Food: Here Comes the Za'atar


Short version: Ground beef fried rice, chocolate pudding

Long version: I had maybe a half pound of ground beef in the refrigerator that needed to be used. I fried it in a skillet with onion, cabbage, carrots, and a can of commodities green beans in the afternoon--plus garlic powder, soy sauce, ginger, and vinegar.

I used part of that at dinner to make the fried rice, by simply adding some of the leftover chicken-stock rice from the night before, and two whole eggs scrambled with two egg whites leftover from making the custard the day before.

This was eaten very enthusiastically by the children, which is always gratifying when I'm serving something totally improvised and intended to just use up random things.

I made the chocolate pudding because there were more children with sore throats. Of course. 

Fortunately, I happened to look at the recipe for Cubby's birthday chocolate cheesecake while I was heating the milk and cornstarch for the pudding. I realized that if I used all the chocolate chips required for a double recipe of the pudding (I always make a double recipe), I wouldn't have enough for his birthday cake. 

Whoops. That was a close one.

So I used a substitution I found online for half the chocolate chips that involved cocoa powder, sugar, and butter. That worked just fine, and I will probably do that from now on. Chocolate chips are a lot harder for me to get and keep in stock than those three ingredients, so from now on I think I'll save the chocolate chips for actual cookies or whatever when they're not being melted.


Short version: Birthday shrimp, sausage, oven fries, green salad with ranch dressing, chocolate cheesecake

Long version: This was Cubby's birthday dinner request. The sausage was the boudin I brought home from Texas.

I used this recipe for the cheesecake, as I always do.

And it cracked, as it always does.


Short version: Za'atar ground beef with yogurt sauce and hummus, more shrimp, leftover rice, carrot sticks

Long version: This whole dinner started with the hummus I had left over from the staff party. I made the ground beef with onion and za'atar, which is a middle eastern spice blend based on sumac that has a slightly sour flavor. One child didn't like the za'atar, but everyone else did. It was really good served over the leftover chicken stock rice with hummus and yogurt sauce (drained plain yogurt, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper) on top.

I didn't make a dessert, because I had made a dessert for the three previous nights and we still had ginger snaps.


Short version: Salmon chowder, ploughman's lunch

Long version: I had made the salmon chowder over the weekend for the sicklings and there was quite a bit left over. None of the children were notably enthusiastic about it, but they ate it, along with their bread, cheese, and pickled green beans. Which is what we now call a ploughman's lunch.


Short version: Leftovers, scrambled eggs, rye crisps, still-frozen green beans

Long version: A. finished the salmon chowder, along with some cheese and rye crisps. The eggs were for the children. They were pretty full from their Valentine's Day party and treats at school, so they didn't need a big dinner.

This was not a special Valentine's Day dinner--at all--but I did find some leftover buckwheat pancakes in the refrigerator in the morning that I made festive with my heart-shaped cookie cutter.

The eye rolling from my sons when I set these in front of them was the most amusing part of my day.


Short version: Bunless hamburgers, potatoes, carrot sticks and ranch dip

Long version: The potatoes were actually the parts of the potatoes left when I cut off the ends to carve hearts for stamping valentines. I had peeled and boiled the rest of the potatoes, not having any particular plan for them, just not wanting to throw them away. I figured I'd find a way to use the cooked potatoes. And I did, by throwing them in the pan with the hamburgers and frying them.

Waste not, want not, right?

I actually had the fortitude to fry hamburgers because school ended early due to the snow that fell all morning.

A 12:30 dismissal time leaves lots of time to play in the snow.

We reeeeally needed the precipitation, so yay for snow.


Short version: A late conglomeration of foods

Long version: I was at Cubby's last basketball game with the younger two children. A. took Calvin to judo. All of us got home around the same time, about 7 :15 p.m. I had taken out three steaks to thaw, but hadn't actually cooked anything, and didn't really feel like cooking the steaks at that late hour. 

There were, however, leftover hamburgers and boudin sausage. So the boys all had one or both of those, and then everyone but one child had a cheese sandwich. A. actually cooked one of the steaks for himself, and also finished the hummus with some tortilla chips.

I ate half a leftover hamburger and a few tortilla chip crumbs while I loaded the dishwasher. Because all I wanted to do was get the children to bed so I could go to bed myself.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Love (And Oreos) Is in the Air . . .

Let's pause our garden series so I can wish you all a happy Valentine's Day! Also so I can talk about Valentine's Day treats.

As the mother of three children who are still in elementary school, I'm still in the thick of class valentines for all. And being me, I refuse to buy cards for my children to sign. Or, perish the thought, the new option of individually wrapped candy with a spot printed right on the wrapper to write the recipient's and giver's names.

Not that there's anything wrong with giving (or getting) a heart-shaped Reese's peanut butter cup! I just like to make my kids work a little harder than that.

Of course, this also means that I have to work a little harder than that.

Just like last year, we raided Cubby's stash of origami paper so the two younger boys and Poppy could make cards for their classmates.* Also like last year, I carved the world's wonkiest hearts on the ends of potatoes so they could stamp correspondingly wonky hearts on the outside of the cards.

Now, we won't pretend that it's the cards kids are excited about getting on Valentine's Day. Of course it's not. They're all about the treats that come with the cards. And for us, that means crispy rice treats.

I've made these enough years in a row that they've become a tradition. And, because our school is so small, I actually make them for every elementary student--even in years when I don't have a kid in every classroom--AND all the staff.

Honestly, I think the staff is more excited than the kids to get a Valentine's treat.

The only downside to these treats is that they really don't keep all that well, so they should be made the day of or the day before. I'm subbing at school today, so I made a recipe and a half after work yesterday. Making them takes no time at all. Individually wrapping 40+ of them is actually the most annoying part. Poppy was happy to help, though.

I made something different for Poppy's class. She doesn't have preschool on Tuesdays, so her class party was Monday. I didn't want to make a tiny batch of crispy treats just for her class, because she only has two other kids in her class. 

I had a bunch of Oreos left from making the chocolate-cookie crust of Cubby's birthday chocolate cheesecake. I also have a big tub of sprinkles left from Poppy's birthday cake decorating (thanks, sis!). What I did not have was any chocolate chips to melt and dip the cookie in to make the sprinkles stick.

The Internet had an alternative, though! I used a mixture of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla to dip the cookies in and then rolled them in the sprinkles. The milk in the dipping mixture did soften the cookie a tiny bit, but certainly not enough to make them unappealing in any way.

Poppy was very pleased with her semi-homemade rainbow Oreos.

There's also a party for the elementary students this afternoon, but I am thankfully not signed up to bring any food for that. I pretty much maxed out my Valentine's spirit with the Oreos.

Regardless of whether you have children or not, I hope this Valentine's Day is filled with love for all of you.

* Cubby has aged out of the valentines-for-all stage, a fact that Poppy found quite upsetting. She does not understand why anyone would choose to forego making and receiving cards and treats. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Snapshots: Definitely Random

No connecting theme at all this week, except that these are all part of my daily life.

Big cardboard boxes are the best for games. And sleeping.

We had a horrifically windy day during which the wind was blowing a different direction than it typically does. This resulted in huge drifts of tumbleweeds inside our property.

Can you see Poppy's bike buried back there?

The whole garden yard was likewise covered in tumbleweeds. It took A. and I with pitchfork and rake almost an hour to clear out. 

I have a sparkly, storebought Happy Birthday banner that got ripped several months ago and I keep forgetting to replace it.

Both A. and Jack's birthdays are during the holidays, so I slightly adapted this holiday banner we have up to reflect our sincerest birthday wishes.

Okay, yeah, this is pretty lame.

I still haven't gotten around to getting an actual birthday banner, though, and the holiday one is now put away. So I had to use my very limited art skills to make one for Cubby's birthday yesterday.

Actually, I think this in an improvement over the holiday one.

Incidentally, anyone else remember the old printer paper that was all connected, with those holed side binding things that had to be manually separated? We always used to use those to make big banners for my dad when he got home from overseas assignments or whatever. Sure was handy.

Anyway. Continuing our random . . .

I saw the very first sign of bulbs!

These are next to one of A.'s stone walls. The walls hold the heat of the sun, so anything planted near them gets extra warmth. I can't actually remember what I planted here. Maybe a crocus?

This time of year, our grocery shopping expeditions happen when A. is going to get hay. This means that he's the one doing the shopping. I write out a very detailed list for him, and he's very good about following it. So for those of you who enjoy peeking in other people's shopping carts (me!), here's our shopping cart in list form.

Some of this--like the shrimp, Oreos, and excessive cream cheese--is special for Cubby's birthday requests. The marshmallows are for Valentine's Day crispy rice treats. Tortilla chips for the hummus I made for the staff party last week. And we usually get a lot more milk, but I had just ordered some from Sysco at the school. So actually, I guess this is not particularly typical. Oh well.

And last, I noticed the other morning that the rising sun through the east-facing window spotlights this arrangement of religious art we have on the living room wall very nicely.

So appropriate for a Sunday Snapshots.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.