Friday, March 17, 2023

Friday Food: A Tale of Two Fats (and Cream Cheese)


Short version: Tuna noodle casserole, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I make tuna noodle casserole once a year, during Lent. This was it. I had a can of cream of mushroom soup from excess commodities that had been sitting around for a very long time, so I used it in this. 

Half the kids loved it. Half were ambivalent. This is the usual ratio of food appreciators:food detractors.


Short version: Barbecue chicken sandwiches, green salad with ranch dressing, chocolate pudding, fresh bread with homemade cream cheese

Long version: I was baking bread, so I stole some of the dough to make buns and then made sandwiches by dicing the leftover chicken from when I made stock a few days before and adding barbecue sauce.

I've been having a lot of salad lately because I asked A. to buy me some more of the big clamshells so I'll have them to plant my tomato seeds in a couple of weeks. I don't know how anyone has room for those big, inflexible boxes of plastic in their refrigerators. So inconvenient.

I also had a couple gallons of milk that were at their best by date, so I made a recipe and a half of pudding. No one ever complains about pudding. And I managed to make it in my smaller pot, even though that meant it was literally almost overflowing.

I didn't spill a single drop of this. I was very impressed with myself.

The reason I had to use my smaller pot was that my bigger pot was full of cream cheese. 

Yes, I made cream cheese. I had been meaning to try it for awhile, and bought the starter culture and rennet for it some time ago. It wasn't until I had some more time over spring break that I actually tried it, though. It just requires half and half, the culture, rennet, and salt. It was very easy, very delicious, and a big hit with my children.

I made a pound and a half of cream cheese and it was all gone in two days. Yikes.

Cream cheese draining.

I think cream cheese, like yogurt, can actually be kept going indefinitely by using some of the previous batch to inoculate the next batch. The question is whether I want to be making cream cheese every week in addition to everything else I already do in the kitchen.

Stay tuned.


Short version: Brisket, mashed potatoes, green salad with ranch dressing, rice pudding or baked apples

Long version: Since I was going to make the rice pudding and that bakes for four hours, I also put in the brisket. That takes even longer, of course. About ten hours. So I also baked the apples in there, just a couple that had bad spots and needed to be used. I have one child that doesn't like rice pudding, so he was happy with the apples and heavy cream.

Brisket always results in quite a bit of rendered fat, which of course we all know better than to throw away, right? Right. 


Short version: Chopped chicken patties, leftover mashed potatoes and cheese, raw cabbage

Long version: My plan had been to have eggs with the mashed potatoes, for a quick workday meal. But then I got all the leftover chicken patties from the school lunch, so instead I chopped those up and fried them in butter to re-heat them. They ended up kind of like chicken nuggets, I guess.


Short version: Grillades, rooster rice, raw cabbage

Long version: I used the saved brisket fat to brown the meat before braising it, and then the remainder of the brisket liquid to cook it.

I very much enjoy the alliteration of "rooster rice," but it also happens to be factually accurate, as I made the rice with a jar of rooster stock that didn't seal when I canned it.


Short version: Leftovers, frozen peas

Long version: The one child who loves sandwiches finished up the barbecue rooster meat. Poppy had a chicken patty and rice. The other boys had brisket and the rest of the leftover mashed potatoes and cheese. They all had the peas.


Short version: Meatloaf, roasted potatoes, pureed calabaza, sauerkraut, raw cabbage, Mexican wedding cookies

Long version: I made the cookies in the morning with Poppy, mostly because I have a lot of nuts on hand and Mexican wedding cookies use almost as much nuts as flour. I used this recipe, but I added a bit of salt, because every recipe needs a bit of salt.

I also made the dough entirely in the food processor, as I had to use it anyway to grind the walnuts. This worked fine, although it is a very thick, stiff dough, so I had to scrape it and rearrange it a few times in the processor.

Because these are rolled in powdered sugar after they're baked, they're not a great cookie-jar cookie--they get a bit sticky--and I certainly wouldn't send them to school as a snack, but they were a fun weekend cookie.

The only reason I made roasted potatoes with the meatloaf is because I had the two cookie pans that could be rinsed off and used again before being washed, so I used one for the meatloaf and one for the potatoes. 

Also, I had all that fat in the refrigerator that needed to be used. In addition to the brisket fat, which was a bright orange from the tomato sauce I had put in with the brisket, I had the bright yellow chicken fat taken off the top of the rooster stock before I canned it.

So cheery.

Perfect for roasting potatoes. I finished off the brisket fat and used a little of the chicken fat, too. It made for some very tasty potatoes.

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

This Can't Be a Coincidence

On the stage/lounge/library that I set up in our high school, there is a pool table. It's possibly the world's worst pool table. There's a hole in one spot, one of the balls is actually missing a section of its hard covering, and the cues have pretty much completely lost their tips.

But it still gets used a lot, often by Cubby, who loves playing pool.

I can't do much about the covering on the table, but I did think maybe it wouldn't be too hard to replace the wonky ball and the terrible cues.

So this morning at 4:30, when I was awake but didn't want to get up yet, I was considering doing a search for cue tips to replace the awful ones.

Cue tips . . . Q-tips? Ohhhh. 

Surely that must be where the name came from, right? Because the Q-tip--that none of us use to clean out our ears, no way--actually resembles the tip of a pool cue.

However, when I looked up the history of Q-tips, I found that the company claims the Q just stands for quality*.

I like my name story much better, though, and now I will think of pool every time I use a Q-tip (but not in my ear, of course! never!). So there.

* I also found the original name for Q-tips was something that would definitely never fly now. How times, and word meanings, have changed in the last hundred years.


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Growing Food: Perhaps Precipitous?

St. Patrick's Day is the day I plant out my cabbages. Or as close to it as I can get, if I have to work or something on March 17. This year, however, despite the cabbages in the bathroom looking like this:

Put us in, Coach! We're ready to grow!

I am not going to be planting them out on March 17. Or March 18. Or March 19. And that is because St. Patrick's Day this year is going to be ushering in some very cold nights, followed by what looks to be some significant snow.

Not the best introduction to the great outdoors for plants that have been kept coddled and warm their entire lives thus far. They'll be staying put for awhile.

This, by the way, is certainly why older people in any area traditionally planted a lot later than the current "last frost date" listed for their zones. They didn't have weather forecasting and couldn't afford to lose their plants, so they always played it much safer than us modern gardeners with our ten-day forecasts.


I also may run into some trouble with the seeds I planted. Besides the lettuce, radishes, and carrots I showed you by the wall last week, A. and I took advantage of some very warm days during our Spring Break last week to prepare some other beds and plant parsnips, radishes*, rutabagas, beets, and more carrots.

I am crossing my fingers that those seeds stay sleeping below ground for at least another week. Although those plants can take a light frost, new seedlings of any kind are not going to survive overnight temperatures in the low twenties.

Stay put, seeds. It's a cold world out here.

So yes, I may have jumped the gun on some planting this year, and yes, I may have to replant some seeds, but that's okay. It's all part of the wild and crazy life of a gardener.

So tell me, my fellow gardeners: What's happening in your gardens right now?

* The MiL taught me years ago to interplant radish seeds with parsnip seeds. The radishes come up within days, whereas parsnips can take weeks to germinate. So the radishes mark the row where the parsnips are, you get two crops out of one row, and pulling out the radishes can help thin the parsnips.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Snapshots: Shearing and Fog

The professional shearer came this year, much to our relief. Well, mostly A.'s relief.

One of these things is not like the other . . .

Moody windmill.

Dogs disappearing into the mist.

Odin in his den.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.