Friday, April 7, 2023

Friday Food: Consolation Prizes


Short version: Tuna salad, individual garlic/herb  breads, cucumbers

Long version: A. was fasting and Cubby was gone at the FFA state finals, so I made tuna salad for the three other children, and also gave them each a ball of bread dough to spice as they wished. In this way, they had individual rolls of bread. 

Considering the spice options before going with everything on offer.

One child used his roll as a sandwich bun for the tuna salad, and the others ate them separately, but all three were happy.


Short version: Sausage-y meatloaf, mashed potatoes, Holy's cabbage

Long version: I made this because Cubby came home after being gone for four nights at the state FFA judging competition. And then he was so exhausted he didn't even want to eat and just went to bed at 6:15 p.m.

It was good, though. I found one more pound or so of bulk breakfast sausage in the freezer and added that to the four pounds of ground beef. It adds fat and flavor to the grass-fed beef we get.


Short version: Italian saucy beef, spaghetti, sauteed zucchini, frozen peas, baked custard

Long version: I had some sirloin steaks to cook, which need to either be seared and served pretty rare, or simmered to make them tender. I went with the latter this time. I even thought ahead and sliced it all thin and marinated the meat with oil, vinegar, salt, and garlic powder. Then I seared it before simmering it in a sauce of tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, onions, and Italian spices, with a frozen cube of pesto added at the end.

I used some of that sauce, plus more pesto and some Parmesan, for the kids' spaghetti.

And I didn't overbake the custard. Yay, me.


Short version: Cafeteria hot dogs, leftover mashed potatoes and cheese, sauerkraut, cucumbers with salt and vinegar

Long version: Good thing the school cook gave me leftover hot dogs, because the leftover meatloaf I thought would be enough for all of us definitely was not. A little mouse named Cubby might have been nibbling on it at night.

About half the children were thrilled to have hot dogs. The others only tolerate them, but that's fine with me as long as they eat them.


Short version: Ground beef and bean chili, cornbread

Long version: I made the chili mostly because I was canning beans (and re-using lids!) this day, so I had the cooked beans on hand. Also, it got one of the bags of pureed calabaza out of the freezer. Always a good thing.

I've settled on a permanent cornbread recipe. I use this one except with half cornmeal and half masa--instead of all corn flour--and I bake it in a 13"x9" buttered Pyrex. I like this recipe because it's fast and easy, and makes a good wheat-flour-free cornbread that isn't gritty or dry. I mix the dry ingredients first, then incorporate the wet stuff right into the same bowl. I melt all the butter in the Pyrex while the oven is heating, and then take out the butter needed for the batter and mix that in before dumping it all back into the Pyrex to bake.


Short version: Skillet food, peaches

Long version: The school cook gave me a bunch of the Spanish rice leftover from lunch, which was fairly tasteless. So I mixed that with some of the chili and a bunch of grated cheddar, and then let the kids put green chili and sour cream on to taste.

None of the children finished this meal, so I suppose it wasn't all that popular. But they all ate at least some of it.

I gave them the (home canned) peaches as a consolation prize. 


Short version: Chili, french toast, eggs

Long version: A. brought the kids home on the school bus and then left with the older two boys about half an hour later so they could serve at the Holy Thursday Mass. One boy ate some chili before he left. The other had some celery sticks and Triscuits with ranch dip. The celery and dip were what was left from the food I sent in for the elementary Easter party.

Poppy woke up with a cough, and was very upset she couldn't go to the party. That's why I made french toast for her and Jack. It was her consolation prize for the night. French toast is a rare breakfast treat in our house, and they've never had it for dinner.

Making french toast for only two kids is a whole heck of a lot faster than making it for five people.

French toast for two.

Much as I would have liked to have made the french toast my dinner as well, I knew that wouldn't be a good idea. Instead, I fried a couple of eggs in the pan after the french toast was done, and then threw in all the cooked vegetables I could find in the refrigerator, which was sweet potatoes, zucchini, and onions. I also used a bit of the chili as a sauce for the eggs.

Not-french-toast for one.

The church crew didn't get home until much later than I was anticipating--8:30 p.m.--and of course they were starving when they did get home. I threw some split pea soup from the freezer, tortillas and cheese, and a cheese sandwich at them and hustled everyone off to bed. Because that's past MY bedtime.

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Always Learning

I decided to take advantage of what is probably one of the last cold, windy days this season to run the pressure canner and get some dried beans out of my pantry. I avoid having the stove on for over an hour to pressure-can anything when my kitchen is 80 degrees, you see, but yesterday the house could use the heat.

I thought I only had 11 new jar lids, though*, and I had more like 15 pints of soaked beans. Since I still had room in my giant pressure-canner for the extra jars, I stuck some already-used lids on the extra jars and put them in with the jars I was canning for storage. I figured I might as well at least use the space to cook the jars of beans, even if they went in the freezer afterwards.

Easy to tell which are the re-used lids.

And then every single jar lid sealed.

I was somewhat shocked by this. I mean, EVERYONE KNOWS those lids are single-use. They're not supposed to seal with a second use! Sometimes they don't even seal with the first use!

But they did. And it was a serious seal. I tried to pull the lids off with my fingers and couldn't. Just like with the jars I keep in my pantry for months at a time, the seal was tight enough that I had to use my can opener to pop off one of the lids.


So, of course, I had to do some research on this. The first results for a search on re-using jar lids are pretty much ,"DON'T DO IT. BOTULISM AND CERTAIN DEATH WILL ENSUE." Or at least the wrath of USDA will descend upon you.

Further scrolling, however, revealed a whole cadre of canners who explain how to re-use lids. Always with the disclaimer that EVERYONE KNOWS you're not supposed to re-use these lids. But these people do. And they'll tell you how, with handy tips and everything.

I guess the takeaway here is that what EVERYONE KNOWS is not actually what everyone practices. 

I am not suggesting we all wantonly re-use lids and blithely ignore safety practices when canning, I just thought this was interesting.

* And then I found three more boxes of wide-mouth jar lids in the cabinets when I was searching for masa, so obviously my organization is not what it could be. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Growing Food: Continual Planting

This is the time of year that I'm always watching the weather, waiting for a break in the wind so I can go out and plant things.

As you know, I've been wanting to plant out my cabbage and kohlrabi starts for a couple of weeks now, but the forecast keeps throwing in a couple of nights in the low twenties, just to keep things interesting. I am not putting out baby plants when it's going to be in the low twenties, even if they are somewhat protected by their very classy plastic milk jug greenhouses.

So. No plants.

But that doesn't mean I can't put things safely under a blanket of dirt!

Like snow peas:

Also very classy with their re-used cattle panel A-frame featuring the remains of last year's green beans. Classy is a theme in my garden. (And that is definitely sarcasm.)

And potatoes:

The bed for which provided so many excellent grubs for the chickens.

The occasional freezing night does not, however, deter some of the things that were already in the ground. Our intense sun warms the soil so much that many of the seeds and perennials are already above-ground.


Rhubarb. This already sustained some frost damage, as you can see by the brown on the leaves.

Volunteer lettuce that came up by the rhubarb, because we watered there already.


The lettuce we planted a few weeks ago.

All of these things will be covered with mulch and boxes, as needed, to protect them from the temperatures for the next couple of nights. But after that, then we're looking at temperatures in the seventies and even eighties during the day, and no more freezing.

That means I will shift from protecting plants to encouraging them to grow. And that will mean watering. A lot of watering.

I should also be able to plant out those cabbages. FINALLY. And then I can use the mushroom containers those plants are in to start some more tomato seeds. I did put a couple dozen tomato seeds into the salad green containers A. got for me awhile ago, but I'm going to need to start another dozen or so to have enough plants, what with the inevitable attrition that occurs getting the plants from seed to actual tomatoes. I always figure I'll lose at least five plants somewhere along the way, and I might lose more than that.

So if I start more than I need, I might end up with enough. If that makes sense to you, you're probably a gardener.

So tell me, my fellow gardeners: What are you seeing coming up in your garden now? Or in your house, if it's still too cold outside for anything living to be above ground?

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Snapshots: Patchy

Now that the weather is warming up, the children and I can resume walking or riding bikes to the post office when we have things to mail.

Riding home from the post office. (It's only a quarter mile, don't worry.)

A. and I planted some of the excess commodities potatoes that were sprouting. While he was digging holes for me, I spied some of the nasty, silvery grubs that usually appear when we're digging beds in the spring. I'm not entirely sure what they turn into, but I know they're nothing I want in my soil. 

I don't get any great pleasure out of picking these things up, but I know some smaller people who do.


They found a total of nine grubs, which were duly delivered to the chickens. Happiness all around.

Adventure Van is starting to show its age (14 years) and all those adventures are catching up to it. A tear appeared in the fabric covering the driver's side seat. I knew if I didn't do something about it, it would get bigger, the foam underneath would start to come out, and the seat would end up being a total mess.

A stitch in time saves nine!

I'm sure there are car patches or something I could buy, but buying things isn't really my style. I was tempted to just duct tape it, but in the interests of trying to maintain some semblance of class--if such a word can be applied to a giant old passenger van--I made a patch of my own.

Poppy donated a pair of her ripped jeans for the patch. I tried super glue first, but that didn't hold, so I had to sew it. I don't have much skill at sewing, and this was a particularly aggravating situation to try to be making stitches, but I managed it in the end.

We'll call this boho chic.

Of course, I don't know if it will hold, and I might end up having to use duct tape in the end, but I tried.

Last, a friend loaned me a novel to read, and I was amused at the floral theme of the cover that I inadvertently matched with my bookmark made from a torn out piece of a tulip bulb catalog.

Incidentally, this is one of the best books I've read this year. If you're looking for something to read at the moment, I would recommend it.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.