Friday, March 10, 2023

Friday Food: A Visitor and a Shearing


Short version: Fish patties, mashed potatoes, frozen green peas

Long version: I still have several cans of salmon from the excess commodities, although when I made fish cakes with it, we found them to be softer and not quite as tasty as the tuna patties I customarily make. So I mixed the two kinds of canned fish, using two cans of tuna and one can of salmon. This worked well, and will likely be how I will use the rest of the salmon.

On several days this week, I cooked, pureed, and froze the remaining calabazas that were starting to go south. I have discovered that the easiest way to cook these giant squash is to cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and put the halves in my huge pressure cooker with a bit of water. I bring it up to pressure, turn it off, and by the time the pressure comes down to zero, it's done.

All done!

This works much better than the oven, because I can't fit more than one half of these big squash into my oven at a time. Plus, it takes way longer in the oven and I have to monitor the water level in the cooking pan frequently.


Short version: Beef stir-fry, rice

Long version: I had two sirloin steaks left from the package I had thawed for Thursday's dinner, so I sliced them thin and used them to make stir-fry with onion, carrot, broccoli, frozen green beans, and half a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables.

The great benefit of the bag of stir-fry vegetables is that is has the baby corn cobs and water chestnuts in it, both of which are favorites of my children. I think they each got a single one of each, but at least they got something exciting.

Yes, tiny corn and water chestnuts are exciting. Low standards, remember?


Short version: Pork ribs, leftover mashed potatoes and rice, Holy's cabbage, roasted parsnips, baked peaches and cream

Long version: The MiL got the parsnips at Trader Joe's in Albuquerque before she drove here. I haven't had parsnips in years, but coincidentally bought some seeds to grow them this year. So I was interested to see which of my children will eat them.

Unsurprisingly, there was an even split on the appreciation of parsnips, as is so often the case. However, I love roasted parsnips, so I'll just eat the ones not eaten by the two parsnip avoiders.

The MiL also brought us real cream from Trader Joe's. We can't get real cream anywhere we shop--only the ultra-pasteurized whipping cream with all the stabilizers and junk--so this was very exciting. I decided the best way to enjoy the real cream was poured over sweetened fruit. So I baked two gallon bags of Nick's peaches with maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. 

A very popular dessert, especially with the cream.


Short version: Green chile cheeseburgers (with buns!), green salad with vinaigrette, leftover baked peaches and cream

Long version: The MiL is a big fan of green chiles. This was her last night with us, so I decided to make something with green chile. I already had dough going for bread, so I used some of that to make buns and made cheeseburgers that could be topped with chopped roasted green chiles.

Not everyone chose to have the green chile, but everyone enjoyed having a bun with their burger.

Funny story: I had also made chocolate chip/walnut cookies earlier in the day, per Poppy's request. I took the big bag of sugar out of the cabinet and put it next to the bowl with the melted butter in it. The bag of sugar was still in the grocery store bag, which came home in the back of A.'s truck, which is very frequently used to haul hay.

This is why when I opened the bag of sugar, small bits of hay came off the outside plastic bag and ended up on top of the melted butter.

Welcome to my life.

I scooped the hay out, and figured any bits I missed would just mean some extra fiber in the cookies.


Short version: Quesadillas, leftovers

Long version: Shearing day! Yay!

We ate a late lunch of sloppy joes after shearing was done, and then A. left around 4:30 p.m. to get the boys to an altar server training and judo. A couple of the children wanted to eat before that, so I made them bean and cheese quesadillas. The others had leftover hamburgers and rice when they got home around 7:30 p.m.

Shearing photo!

Giant pile of puffy wool. This is from one sheep. They have very impressive fleeces.


Short version: Cubby's spaghetti and potatoes, chicken with pesto, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: At 4 p.m., there were children whining about being hungry, children making themselves tortillas and peanut butter while asking when dinner would be, and I was not yet ready to make dinner. So I said, with some irritation, "If you want it now, go ahead and make dinner."

So Cubby did.

He decided to make spaghetti--with a jar of roasted tomato puree, a few cubes of frozen pesto, oregano, and butter--and potatoes fried in oil.

I did note that would be two starches in one meal. He did not care. And honestly, neither did I, since A. doesn't eat pasta and would be happy to have the potatoes.

The chicken was my addition. We got two roosters from our neighbor that we had butchered this day. I had cooked them in the pressure cooker to make stock, and then I used some of the shredded meat for dinner,  mixed with pesto and butter.

I also contributed the salad. 

Obviously, we need to do some work on the idea of a balanced meal, but at least I didn't make all of it.


Short version: Chicken slop, mashed potatoes, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: That same rooster meat, plus the stock, plus cornstarch, onion, powder, garlic powder, and bit of rosemary to make essentially chicken in gravy. Slop sounds so much more fun, though.

When I told the boys what we were having for dinner, they all said, "Slop? Like what they eat in prison?"

Yes, children. I'm giving you prison food tonight. Eat up.

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

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Growing Food: Planting Seeds

It's getting warmer. The mornings are no longer frigid. The days are getting longer.

And that means it's time to start planting. Whee!

Where we are (Zone 6), the last frost date is technically early in May, although I know the older people here always assumed a frost was possible until the end of May. 

In any case, the last frost date for wherever you are is obviously very important if you're going to grow anything outside. No point in planting something delicate like basil if it's going to sprout and get killed two weeks later by a frost.

But there are several non-delicate things that can be started outdoors pretty early. For us, that was the lettuce, radishes, and carrots we planted this past Saturday.

Because we live in a relatively dry place with quite light soil, we prepare our garden beds differently than many people do. Certainly differently than we did when we lived in New York. It took us a few years to figure out how to grow things here. But we've pretty much got it now, and it comes down to this: Water, and lots of it.

We plant all of our seeds and plants in cells or trenches with built-up sides so these areas can be flooded. If we can't flood the area to the point where there is standing water, the plants just don't get enough water. 

Also, we have to be careful to give shade to plants that are prone to bolting, because our sun is just too strong. Most of the spring vegetables fall in this category, so we planted the lettuce and radishes on the north side of A.'s stone wall so they would be shaded part of the day.

It looked like this.

See the berm of soil on all sides? That will hold in the water.

Obviously, the cells can't be flooded until the plants sprout and grow a bit, so until then, I water them with a rain attachment on our hose. But when they're big enough, I just drop the hose in there and run it until that whole thing is flooded with at least an inch of water. If it doesn't rain (and lately, it just hasn't been raining), I have to do that every other day.

In a couple of weeks. I'll show you what it looks like when I plant out young plants, rather than seeds. Get excited!

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Snapshots: Planting Has Begun

We had some late sleety stuff on Tuesday that resulted in quite a bit of heavy frost on everything Wednesday morning. I was particularly amused by this bale of hay that looked just like a giant Frosted Shredded Wheat cube.

I'll leave this to the sheep for breakfast, however.

The MiL arrived for a visit right after all that mess on Tuesday, bringing with her two bouquets of flowers for me. 

The big one on the left is what both of them looked like when she bought them.

I separated, trimmed, and re-arranged both bouquets, ending up with one for the table, one for the living room, and a tiny one for Poppy's room.

Of course I chose only pink and purple for her tiny vase. She was thrilled.

So lovely to have colorful flowers in the house again.

It may be awhile before I have wildflowers for the table again, but spring is definitely coming. We spent some time outside yesterday putting the very first seeds in the ground: Lettuce, radishes, and carrots.

Will I be talking about that in much more detail on Tuesday? But of course. In the meantime, here's Poppy watering garlic for me.

Nothing more fun than spraying water around.

While we were doing that, the boys were claiming the garden for the U.S.A.

The yellow school bus in the background makes it extra patriotic.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.