Friday, April 14, 2023

Friday Food: Easter!


Short version: Spanish tortilla

Long version: I brought the two altar servers to the Good Friday service, and I stayed with them. It was a long Latin Mass, but thankfully, it started at 3 p.m., so we got home around 5:30 p.m. I had made the Spanish tortilla because it can be made ahead and served at whatever temperature. 

It's also an all-in-one meal if I add some sort of vegetable to it. Which I did. Finely chopped beet greens.


Short version: Goulash-y thing with noodles, leftovers, bread and butter

Long version: This was the night of the Easter Vigil service, which was a REALLY long Latin Mass. This time, the boys needed to be there at 4 p.m. and I didn't anticipate them getting home until after 8 p.m.

I had taken out some sirloin steak I had thinly sliced, thinking I would make stir-fry with it. But since I had paprika sludge left from dyeing eggs (I drain most of the water off the top of the spices, leaving the sludgy spice at the bottom to be used), I instead made a kind of goulash with that. I didn't add tomato this time, instead just using onion, garlic powder, the paprika, sauerkraut, and water to simmer the meat, and then adding sour cream at the end. I think we all preferred this tomato-less version, actually.

The altar boys had that with egg noddles a bit after 3 p.m. I dropped them off at church at four to get ready, although the service wasn't until 5 p.m. I took the younger two with me to play on the playground in the village after we stopped at the church. While we were gone, A. ate the rest of the split pea soup from the freezer and then went to the actual service.

When I got home with the younger children, we ate the last of the neverending chili with the bread and butter.

And then the altar servers had tortillas and cheese when they got home at 8:30 p.m. 

Quite an evening, all around.

Let's all calm down with a pretty photo of the open tulip, shall we?

That's nice.


Short version: Ham, scalloped potatoes, green salad with vinaigrette, green peas, chiffon cake with chantilly cream and rhubarb/peach sauce

Long version: The ham had been in the freezer for awhile, so I didn't actually buy anything new to make this meal.

I've decided my new goal for Easter is to use at least one thing from the garden for our Easter dinner. I found one stalk of asparagus and some parsley in the garden that I chopped up for the salad. 

I made the chiffon cake mostly because it uses a lot of eggs--and I still have a LOT of eggs--and is not chocolate. My kids get plenty of chocolate in their Easter baskets, so there's no sense in going overboard.

Chiffon cake is just like an angel food cake, except the yolks are used. I used this recipe, including the chantilly cream. 

Do you see the tiny little carrot on the cake plate? A. dug that up in the garden earlier in the day when we were planting green beans. It was pretty limp and sad, so I just used it as a decoration. Mostly for amusement, since it wasn't actually particularly decorative.

The cake was fine, but I really liked the chantilly cream. It had a bit of sour cream in with the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla, which gave it a slightly more complex flavor than straight whipped cream, and also allowed it to hold up to being refrigerated overnight. Whipped cream gets liquidy if it's not used right away. This didn't.

I didn't have any strawberries to use on top of the cake, but I did get a few small stalks of rhubarb from the garden that I cooked and mashed with some home-canned peaches and sugar to make a sauce for the cake. That was really good.


Short version: Spaghetti with meat sauce and ricotta, dilly beans

Long version: I had to make ricotta because our last gallon of milk was separating. 

Draining the ricotta.

Since I was making ricotta, I made a meat sauce to put it in. And since I was making a meat sauce, I made spaghetti.

That's often how things unfold in my kitchen. And it's one reason I don't make menu plans ahead of time.


Short version: Cheeseburgers (with buns!), carrot sticks

Long version: I was making bread, so I made some buns for the cheeseburgers. I used some of the whey from draining the ricotta in the bread, and it made it very soft. Perfect for hamburger buns. I even had lettuce and thinly sliced onions for the top. Deluxe indeed.

Well, for our house. Low expectations, remember?


Short version: Leftovers of various kinds

Long version: Some had sandwiches with meat sauce in them (surprisingly tasty). Some had leftover spaghetti with sauce. All had dilly beans and plain ricotta. Not together, though.


Short version: Sausages, leftover scalloped potatoes, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I had one package of boudin sausage and one of smoked beef sausage left from my stock-up in Texas over Christmas. I think there's one more small package of kielbasa left, and then all the sausage will be gone. Sadness.

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

T.T.: The Glue That Binds

I have a tip! And it's not about food! It's not a Tuesday, but I'm going to pass it along to you anyway in the hopes it might help one of you. 

I tend to dry skin, and my hands are one of the biggest issues I have with that. I spend a lot of time with my hands in water or damp. Mostly because I cook so much that I'm constantly washing them, but also because of dishes. And I absolutely detest the feeling of gloves. I won't wear them. I always feel too clumsy in gloves. 

This results in dry skin on my hands, and, most annoyingly, in skin fissures on my right thumb.

A skin fissure is just a small crack in the skin that looks like a slit. I most commonly get them on the corner of my thumbnail. They're tiny, but surprisingly painful and hard to heal. 

The past week, I got one of these fissures in the center of my thumb, and it actually extended underneath the nail. 

It's very hard to get a good picture of a skin fissure, apparently. But it's there! (And trust me, this is a way less disgusting picture than you would see if you searched for the term skin fissure. I cannot handle the images that always accompany medical articles online. Gross.)

It was very ow, and also kept getting dirty because I was working in the garden so much.

Before anyone says it, no, I won't wear gloves in the garden, either.


Apart from the pain of this little fissure, I really wanted to keep it covered so the dirt wouldn't get in there. But the tip of a finger is a very hard place to keep a bandage on, especially because, again, my hands are constantly wet, which means I'm constantly having to change bandages on my hands.

Superglue to the rescue!

Okay, actually, I used Gorilla Super Glue, but same idea. Just a little dot right there on the fissure, and I could go about my merry way.

I don't know why it took me so long to think of this.

The glue only stayed put for about a day, thanks to, again, all the work my hands do and the subsequent washing, but that was long enough for the skin to start knitting together.

So! If you too are too stubborn to wear gloves and plagued by tiny little slits in your skin that keep getting vinegar or whatever in them, causing you to swear internally while you sprint for the sink to wash your hands YET AGAIN . . . 

Head to your nearest hardware store and grab some extra-strength adhesive. It'll cure what ails you.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Growing Food: Milk Jugs, Finally!

A. and I spent a few hours on Easter preparing the ground for and planting out the kohlrabi and cabbages. FINALLY. 

And that means I can finally show you how we do it. Whee!

A. does the actual digging. He's very speedy with a shovel. 

He uncovered many of these nasty grubs in the course of his digging, which I collected for the chickens.

I also uncovered this toad when I was raking the bed. It startled me quite severely. Luckily, it was uninjured and we found a nice shady spot for it to hide itself away again.

I hoe out the chunks of dirt and rake it, and then A. uses the hoe to form the berms of soil that surround our beds.

The reason we need those berms is that we have to be able to flood these beds. In fact, I flood the beds before I put any plants in. I don't do this for seeds, of course, but for plants with existing roots, I plant them right in mud.

So the first step after preparing the bed is flooding it. I drop the hose in and let it run for about twenty minutes, which is how long it takes for there to be two or three inches of water on the surface. After I remove the hose, I let the water soak in. It takes about fifteen minutes for all the water to sink below the surface.

While I'm doing this, I'm also preparing the milk jugs. These are plastic gallon jugs that I save for about a month in the spring. We go through about four gallons of milk a week, so I don't have any trouble accumulating a good supply of them.

All I do with them is remove the caps and cut off the bottom couple of inches of the jug.

I find a bread knife to be best for this task.

Although I rinse the jugs out when we're finished with them, I don't actually wash them, so this step involves some seriously stinky sour milk. Gross.

The plants don't mind the smell, though.

After I have all my jugs ready and the beds no longer have standing water in them, I dig a hole in the mud for the plant, put it in, and then put a milk jug right over the plant. I press the jug down into the mud about half an inch. When the mud dries, the jug will stick in the soil and won't blow off. Very important here.

A bed of jugs.* Not pretty, but functional.

The jug does many things. It protects the plants from our very drying winds and from too much evaporation after they're watered.

The jugs protect the plants from freezing temperatures as well. The heat from the sun will get trapped in these jugs and even if the temperature gets below freezing, it won't freeze inside the jugs. The small opening at the top allows enough heat to escape that the plants don't get cooked, but they do stay warm. In this way, I can plant cabbages out well before the last frost date.

The opaque plastic of the jugs also protects the plants from too much direct sunlight. In addition, I can water right inside the jug. It will trap the water right where it needs to be.

Yet another benefit of the jugs is they enable me to mulch the plants easily. I can just dump the mulch right in the bed and spread it around the jugs without worrying about covering up the plants.

We don't actually have a lot of soiled hay this year to use for mulch, so I used some leaf and wood chip detritus I raked out of the driveway, mixed with compost from the compost pile, to mulch these beds.

Looks kind of rough, but it'll work.

The mulch is useful for suppressing weeds, but more importantly, it keeps moisture from evaporating so quickly. I'll flood this whole bed every couple of days and the water will sink right down into the ground below the mulch.

Besides those two beds of cabbage and kholrabi, I planted two trenches of green beans. The only things left to plant are the cucurbits (calabaza and cucumbers) and the basil, tomatoes, and peppers that are growing still in the bathroom. Those plants will get jugs, too, but they're still a few weeks from being planted out.

So tell me, my fellow gardeners: Do you use anything to protect your plants when you transplant them?

* I'll explain about those two plants surrounded by rocks in a later post.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Snapshots: Spring for Easter

We are not always assured of spring weather for Easter Sunday, but this year, we got it. It's going to be 70 degrees and sunny, but most importantly, no wind. Or at least, so little wind it won't register as much more than a gentle breeze. 

Alleluia, indeed.

The garden is happy about this, too.

I spied the first asparagus arising from the dusty depths.

The first tulip bud. This was two days ago. I'm hoping it will actually open this afternoon.

You can't really see it here, but there's a haze of green on the Chinese elms.

I failed to get a photo of the peach tree A. started from a pit a few years ago that is covered with buds and blossoms. Boo. It's very pretty, though. And exciting. Yay, peaches!

I obviously don't have any Easter action shots for you, as my little egg-hunters are still nestled all snug in their beds. I have some of the prep work, though.

The MiL sent us several cloth napkins, which included a few nice linen napkins. Cubby was ironing his clothes yesterday, and went ahead and ironed the napkins for me so we could have fancy napkins for our Easter dinner.

Very convenient to have someone in the house who actually likes to iron.

If you've been reading here for a few years, you may remember that I don't buy egg dyeing kits. We do dye eggs, though, with whatever I find that will color them and is food-safe. This year, that was paprika (orange), curry powder (yellow), and the juice from a jar of my pickled beets (pink/purple). I let the kids color them with crayons first, too.

This year's masterpieces.

Actually, I could have skipped the dyeing and just used this carton of eggs my friend gave me, which were naturally colored by her hens.

No pink, though.

And last, the Easter baskets. I always buy a book for each child's basket, my mom always sends chocolate crosses for them, and this year the MiL sent a wristwatch for each boy (Poppy already got a very cute bunny dress from her). A. also got small chocolate bunnies and some Starburst candies.

Obviously, that giant book about the Empty Quarter is not going to fit in any basket, so it will just have to go underneath that boy's basket.

There you have it! My life (and Easter) snapshotted.