Friday, February 24, 2023

Friday Food: Pralines for Fat Tuesday


Short version: Ribeye steak, bread and butter, Holy's cabbage, raw cabbage, sauteed green beans, peanut butter cookies

Long version: Although I much prefer the butter-saturated sweetness and softness of Holy's cabbage, my children mostly prefer cabbage raw. So much so, in fact, that they asked for seconds on the raw cabbage after they finished their dinners.

I obliged, and they munched on that while watching the final battle scene in the epic movie El Cid with their father. 

It was pretty funny.

Peanut butter cookies courtesy of Calvin's snow-day assignments. We didn't go to school Thursday due to the weather, but the kids hadn't brought their computers home. So their teachers sent them assignments that could be done without their actual books, and one of those for Calvin was to make something in line with their food science unit, to be presented on Monday.

Well, if that isn't an assignment tailor-made for making and bringing in cookies for a presentation, I don't know what is.

He chose peanut butter cookies, so we made these. He documented the whole thing with photos, including one of all the ingredients.

He's a food blogger in the making.

The funnest part of this recipe is gently squishing the cookies right after they come out the oven. 


Short version: Steak, bunless hamburgers, mashed potatoes, pureed calabaza, still-frozen green beans, sick-boy rice

Long version: I had one ribeye steak left, which I cooked for A. I also had one 2-pound package of ground beef thawed. I made that into seven hamburgers for the children and me. They had the frozen green beans. A. and I had the calabaza (from the freezer).

When Cubby returned around 7 p.m. from an overnight FFA trip*, I learned he had been sick the whole time and was still feeling pretty bad. So I made him some rice with chicken stock, because he hadn't eaten all day but wasn't sure he could stomach anything else. Bummer. The rice helped, though.


Short version: Bacon-cheeseburger casserole, green salad with ranch dressing, baked peaches and cream

Long version: I had made the original version of this totally improvised casserole some years ago. Even with my own description, I didn't exactly re-create it, but it was still eaten with enjoyment.

I didn't actually eat the casserole, instead saving a small bowl of the meat before I added everything else to it. I put that meat in my own salad, along with roasted carrots, diced pickled beets, and a vinaigrette. The salad for everyone else just had shredded carrots and ranch dressing in theirs.

Very often what my dinner looks like.

The peaches were a bag of peach halves--thanks, Nick!--with the skins still on, plus the very last of some frozen peaches I bought from Sysco, uh, maybe three years ago? Past time to use those up, for sure. And their flavor definitely needed the boost from Nick's peaches.

Frozen peaches will lose their skins very readily when they thaw. Just like tomatoes, the skins will slip right off. So that's what I did. To the peaches, I added the remainder of the powdered sugar/milk dip I used for the Valentine's Oreos, a bit of honey water left from rinsing out the empty honey jar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and a pinch each of ginger and cloves. I baked that for around an hour, let it cool a bit, and served it with heavy cream poured right over it in the bowls.

It was really good. Some of the children thought it was even better than baked apples, which is high praise indeed.


Short version: Leftover fried rice

Long version: I had made this fried rice for lunch the day before with leftover rice, leftover hamburgers, onion, cabbage, carrots, and a can of commodities green beans.

It was not the most popular dinner I have ever served my children, but they ate it anyway.


Short version: Fat Tuesday grillades, rice, pureed calabaza, carrot sticks, pralines

Long version: I realized sometime in the morning that it was actually Fat Tuesday which, as a granddaughter of New Orleans, it is my duty to observe. Absent copious alcoholic drinks and over-the-top parades, my only option for celebrating is in my kitchen.

So I took out a couple of packages of cube steaks to make grillades. I don't typically keep grits in my kitchen, so we had it with rice.

And then . . . pralines. 

I have never before made pralines. I'm not a big consumer of candy, so I'm not very motivated to make it. For this reason, I do not have a candy thermometer. It is, of course, possible to make candy without a thermometer, it's just a little more nerve-wracking.


Because of a sewage issue at school, we were doing a virtual day of school. Getting my sons through virtual schooling is always a challenge, and I find bribery to be very helpful in encouraging productivity. So I told them that if they finished all their work, I would make pralines.

They did, so I did.

I used this recipe, plus a couple of supplemental websites that both told me and showed me how to figure out "soft ball" stage without a thermometer. They turned out very well. I think I nailed the texture, which is very much like maple candy. Tastes a lot like maple candy, as well.

Definitely not a photogenic dessert, but very tasty.

Calabaza and carrot sticks are not at all traditional in New Orleans, but then, I don't live in New Orleans, and I had calabaza and carrots on hand. So there you go.


Short version: Leftover fish sticks, rice, raw cabbage

Long version: We got home around 6 p.m. from Ash Wednesday Mass, so a fast dinner was called for. Luckily, the school cook had given me all the fish sticks left from the school lunch. I couldn't believe how excited my children were to have leftover fish sticks for dinner. Apparently, they're fish-stick deprived.

I had some leftover mashed potatoes with cheese, because I'm not excited about fish sticks ever.


Short version: Spaghetti with meat sauce, leftovers, cottage cheese

Long version: I was at school all day, subbing for another teacher, and I didn't really know what I was going to make for dinner even when I managed to haul myself out of my chair at 5 p.m. to go into the kitchen.

There was enough of the cheeseburger casserole for A. to have that, so he did. I found a container of meat sauce in the freezer and quickly thawed that so the kids could have that over spaghetti.

I had the cottage cheese, with lots of pepper and a couple of rye crisps.

Everyone fed. The end.

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

* He went to the state finals for the speech competition, and ended up getting 4th place for his speech on the uses of horses in agriculture. Yay, Cubby!

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Growing Food: Succession Planting

I think this topic definitely falls in the "do as I say, not as I do" category.

Succession planting is a very simple concept: You stagger your planting times of seeds, one after another, so that you (theoretically) end up with a longer time period in which to harvest. This means you don't end up with, say, bushels of lettuce all at once before it bolts. Or maybe ten cabbages that need to be cut at the same time.

This is a really good idea. I heartily endorse it. I even try to do it occasionally. I mean, look at my cabbages! I just transplanted some of the big plants to different pots so I can use the shallow container to start more seeds.

So proud of myself.

Typically, however, I am not very good about succession planting. Part of it is that I'm just not the sort of person who plots out my garden in any detail. I suspect a dedicated list-maker would fare better at this, because that sort of person would happily create a schedule for planting and follow it.

I, being a rebel by nature (ha), dislike lists and planning in that way. So I just do it when I think about it.

The other reason is that I haven't had a lot of luck with it when I have actually managed to plant things in succession. My experience has been that the things that are planted first sometimes lag, and the things that are planted later grow faster, so that I end up with simultaneous harvests anyway.

I still try, though, with some things. Like the above cabbages.

So! Fellow gardeners: Tell me your own experiences with succession planting. Do you do it? If you do, how does it work for you?

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Snapshots: Snow!

The five or so inches of snow we got a few days ago is the first measurable precipitation we've gotten in . . . actually, I don't know. Months, for sure.

A very welcome sight.

Also very cold.

The cold temperatures that came along with the storm meant that we spent a few days working hard to make sure all the animals had liquid water.

For the chickens, it's easiest to give them a smaller amount of water in something like a plastic bucket. 

Empty ice cream tubs are perfect.

The advantage of that is its flexibility. Even when it's frozen solid, I can just put a bit of liquid water in it to loosen up the sides, then sort of flex the sides and pop out the big chunk of ice before re-filling. Much better than a big bucket of water.

Things I never thought I would need to know . . .

And finally, the last basketball game of the season on Thursday included a parent appreciation presentation, at which I was given a small bag of treats--promptly devoured by the young children with me--and a rose. Which means I have a flower on my table once again. It's been awhile.

A brave display of color in the midst of drab late winter.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.