Friday, June 2, 2023

Friday Food: So There, Walmart Lady


Short version: Baby back ribs, sauteed shrimp, pureed sweet potatoes, green salad with ranch dressing, rice pudding

Long version: We actually had the ribs, shrimp, sweet potatoes, and salad around 2 p.m. due to one child leaving in the early afternoon. I think this might have been the first time I have ever served pureed sweet potatoes to my family. I love sweet potatoes, but I only get them to roast cubes of them for my salads. However, this week, in addition to the sweet potatoes still in the refrigerator from A.'s last shopping trip, I got two bags of sweet potatoes from the excess commodities.

I had put several in the oven with the ribs to bake, figuring I would do something with them at some point. And then I thought, well, why not with this meal? So I pureed them using my immersion blender, and added butter, cream, and a bit of maple syrup.

With those additions, is it any surprise that every one of the children liked them? Nope.

I had baked the rice pudding while the ribs were in because I had some milk that was no longer good for drinking. This worked out very well, though, as the child who left doesn't like rice pudding. So at our usual dinner time, I just gave everyone rice pudding.

They thought this was great.


Short version: Sauteed shrimp, fried enchilada bull/leftover chili, mashed potatoes, raw broccoli, chocolate chip/raisin/oatmeal/almond cookies

Long version: There was some shrimp to be cooked, but not enough for everyone. So I used some of the processed bull meat that had the enchilada sauce added to it, from the freezer, and fried that with the very last of the leftover chili.

I like using raisins with chocolate chips because I have a literal case of raisins thanks to excess commodities. Cookies with only raisins aren't as good as cookies with only chocolate chips. 

Except maybe actual oatmeal-raisin cookies. Even then, though, I always want some chocolate chips in them.

But I don't get chocolate chips for free. So if I use some chocolate chips along with some raisins, the flavor of the chocolate is there but boosted by the sweetness of the raisins.

And as I have mentioned, I also have a literal case of almonds from excess commodities. Whenever I have the food processor out, I chop/grind some of these whole almonds. I keep a bag of these in the freezer to be added to cookies or granola.


Short version: Cheeseburgers on homemade buns, baked beans, pots de creme

Long version: Since I was making bread anyway, I made some buns for cheeseburgers. And I remembered to use the container of baked beans I took out of the freezer on the very first day. Yay me.

We hadn't had pots de creme for Sunday dessert in awhile. It's just as popular as it ever was.


Short version: Ground beef and bean tacos, homemade corn tortillas, banana ice cream

Long version: I hadn't made tortillas in a very long time, but it seemed like a nice thing to do on a holiday. I should have had A. take a picture, in case he ever ran into the censorious Walmart Lady again.

It had also been a very long time since I had made the banana ice cream. I had four spotty bananas that were getting a bit too brown for enjoyable eating, so I froze them in slices to make the fake ice cream.

It ended up being quite a nice holiday meal, if not exactly particularly American.


Short version: Bull patties, rice, raw kohlrabi

Long version: In my continuing effort to use up the bull meat, I opened another jar of pressure-canned bull and threw it in the food processor with half an onion, mayonnaise, mustard, and lots of parsley. The resulting puree looked a lot like canned tuna, so I decided to add bread crumbs and eggs to it and make it into patties, just like I do with tuna.

Experimental bull.

When I asked A. after dinner what he thought of the patties, he said evasively, "I ate it."

He did. And that is one of the nice things about A.: He will always eat what's put in front of him without complaint. But I got the point that this is not a good candidate for a repeat preparation.


Short version: Bull and rice casserole, rhubarb pudding with cream

Long version: I had more of the uncooked bull mixture left, so I mixed that together with leftover rice and grated cheddar cheese and baked it. This was a much better use for the bull meat. It really seems to work best in casseroles.

I made the rhubarb pudding as a consolation dessert in case the casserole wasn't very good. It actually was good, and everyone had seconds of it, but no one minded having the pudding as well.


Short version: Pork steaks, pureed sweet potatoes, roasted garlic, green salad with very herby ranch dressing, gingersnaps

Long version: We had some spice rub leftover from the pork ribs earlier in the week, so I used it on a package of pork steaks. I cooked them at 300 degrees for about an hour to make sure they were tender. They were.

I had actually baked the sweet potatoes the day before when the oven was on for the casserole and pudding, and then pureed the sweet potatoes with cream, butter, and maple syrup right before I did the dishes. So they were ready to go and just needed to be re-heated.

A. brought in five garlic plants that were starting to scape (the scape is the flower stalk of the plant), so I cut off the heads and baked those in aluminum foil while the pork was in.

The scapes I took off the plants and chopped fine along with a bunch of fresh dill and parsley from the garden.

Herby cutting board.

I ended up with about half a cup of herbs after all the chopping was done. This made a very tasty salad dressing, as you might imagine.

I use this recipe for gingersnaps. My children would rather I made Grandma Bishop's molasses cookies every time, but these gingersnaps don't need to be rolled out and cut, so they're a bit faster. They do taste different than the actual molasses cookies, though, as they rely more on spices and less on molasses for flavor. I use slightly less brown sugar than the recipe calls for, a bit of cloves in place of the allspice, and no white pepper at all. I find them to be spicy enough with the amount of ground ginger in the recipe.

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Git Up There, Sheep

We did something fun and certainly unusual yesterday: We had a sheep drive.

You've heard of cattle drives, right? Well, this is the same, but with sheep instead of cattle.

The reason we did this is because our neighbor is the caretaker of our ghost village's cemetery, and he agreed that it would be very helpful to put the sheep in there to clean up the weeds and tall grass that have grown up around the trees and headstones. 

Cemeteries are very labor-intensive to landscape with weed eaters or mowers, because of all the grave markers, flowers, etc. that must be avoided. But sheep are very skilled at picking around anything in their way while they're grazing. They are also small enough that they won't cause any damage, unlike cattle. So our neighbor asked anyone he knew who had relatives buried there if they minded sheep being in there to eat down the grass and weeds. None did.

This cemetery is fully fenced and quite large, about an acre. A. was happy to have a new place for the sheep to forage while we're waiting for the grass in their usual pasture to get establishd, especially one so nicely fenced. He waited until after Memorial Day, when quite a few people visit the cemetery to decorate graves. But first thing Tuesday, we prepared to move the sheep.

This cemetery is about two miles from our house, and it required us to get the sheep across the main road. We started early, so as to avoid the traffic resulting from Texans going home from their holiday weekend in the mountains. Luckily, we can see a couple of miles down the road in both directions from our village, so we waited until there were no vehicles in sight and then ran the sheep across.

Why did the sheep cross the road? To get to more grass, of course.

The rest of the drive was just keeping the flock from turning off into open pastures or other roads.

I drove the Honda so I could get ahead of the flock and block off intersections where they might go the wrong way. 

Waiting for the flock at the intersection to turn them left.

Little Bo Peep was with me.

One boy was on his bike, so he could drive the sheep from behind but also get ahead of them as necessary. A. and the other boy were on foot behind the flock.

It took about an hour, but eventually . . .


A. has to haul water up there for them in his truck, but it's otherwise a very nice place for them to spend a couple of weeks. And at the end, the entire cemetery will be well-manicured, thanks to the sheep.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Growing Food: The Enigma of Kohlrabi

I can't remember the first time I ever ate kohlrabi. It's certainly not a vegetable I had ever encountered in my childhood. In fact, I'm pretty sure I had never even heard of it until sometime in the last decade. Most probably I was introduced to it by the MiL.

Kohlrabi is not a well-known vegetable. I would venture a guess that few of you have ever had it. It's even sort of perplexing to figure out what part of the plant to eat.

So let's talk about it!

Kohlrabi is a member of the brassica family, which means it's related to broccoli. And in fact, it tastes exactly like a broccoli stem. I happen to love the stem of broccoli more than the florets--it's a texture thing--which is one reason I love kohlrabi. Also, those nasty cabbage worms can't hide in kohlrabi the way they do in broccoli florets. Man, I hate those things. So gross.


Like all brassicas, kohlrabi is fairly cold hardy. I start the seeds for it indoors at the same time as my cabbage seeds, and I plant them all out at the same time, too. 

Cabbages and kohlrabi, all walled off.

As small plants, they're almost impossible to tell apart. But identification gets easier as they get a bit bigger, because the kohlrabi plant will grow to a much larger diameter than a cabbage plant.

The kohlrabi plant is mostly large leaves. These look just like collard greens, and can be cooked just the same way. I understand they can even be picked a few at a time without harm to the plant if an earlier harvest of greens is desired, although I don't care enough for cooked greens to do this.

The part of the kohlrabi plant that makes it unique, however, is the stem. At the base, just above ground, the stem will swell into a ball about the size of a baseball. That's the part this plant is really grown for, and that's the part that's best to eat.

Kohlrabi plants don't grow any secondary harvest after this is cut, so I just yank the whole plant out by the roots when it's time to harvest it. There's no way to tell when it's ready except by the size of the bulbous base. Any larger than three inches or so in diameter and it will start to get too woody to eat.

To harvest, I pull the whole plant out by the roots. I usually have to use a shovel to pry it up, because the roots are quite anchored.

I broke off quite a few stems getting this one out, but it doesn't matter, because . . .

Next I snap off the leaves where they attach to the ball part. As I mentioned, the leaves can be cooked or frozen just like collard greens. I sometimes do this for some of the plants, although I'm just not that into cooked greens enough to cook or freeze them all, so the chickens get some too.

Removing the root ball is actually quite difficult. Knives aren't really up to the task, so I use our Japanese saw.

Like so.

You can see in the above photo that the proportion of leaves to the ball part is quite unequal. That ball is going to be reduced further in size by the next phase, which I neglected to take a photo of.

The ball part needs to be peeled. I use a paring knife and peel away the tough outer skin all around, kind of like an apple.

After all this, I'm left with maybe a cup of vegetable. This is why I say that kohlrabi doesn't make a lot of sense to grow from the perspective of yield. It's probably one reason I've never seen it at a grocery store or farmer's market, too.

However, I don't need to make a profit on my vegetables, so I can grow what I want. And I want to grow kohlrabi. I love it, and so do all my children. Although it can be cooked and used in any way broccoli can--it's most often mentioned in the context of stir-fry, but I've even seen a recipe for stuffing the whole ball--we always eat it raw. I just cut it into sticks and it's gone in minutes.

So tell me, my fellow gardeners: What do you grow despite its impracticality?

* For anyone who may have noticed, yes, I slightly changed the title of this series. "Gardening for Food" was just too clunky. Of course, now I have to go back and change all of the other post titles, because this is number 20 in the series. Kind of hard to believe.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Snapshots: An Eclectic Assortment

I was so pleased by the inadvertent alliteration of my shopping list that I took a photo.

It's the little things in life.

A child who wishes to no longer be featured by name here actually cleaned the work table in the shop. The shop is one of the few areas that I don't use, and thus, do not clean. That means it is usually in an incredible state of chaos. I try to just avoid it. And now at least this part is organized! Yay!

I will respect the desire for anonymity, even if it means he doesn't get credit for this lovely sight.

Ready for work.

Another anonymous child arranged every single toy car we have in what he called "a war council."

I thought it looked quite artistic.

We've been keeping the sheep off their pastures near the house so the recent rains can do their work of actually making forage in there. If we don't keep the sheep off the pastures as they grow initially, they will eat every last tiny sprout and nothing will grow well all summer. So we have them penned in the alley near the house. 

We had been feeding them hay in there, but now that there are weeds and things growing all over the roadsides, A. stopped buying hay and has instead been letting the sheep out to graze morning and evening around our ghost village. They are happy to do this, and it's nice not to be paying for hay, but they do require some shepherding. 

Sheep like to roam, you see. And sometimes they will roam too near our (not-very-close) neighbors' houses, or too far down the road. And then they must be re-directed. The children are actually very proficient shepherds, although they occasionally require help.

Sheep on the road.

May is the branding month here in cattle country. Any new calves have to be branded, vaccinated, tagged (on the ear), and castrated if they're bull calves. Typically, the calves are put in a pen, roped by the hind leg by a roper on horseback, flipped over and held by one person at the head and one at the tail, and then there's a person to do the branding, another to do the castrating, and one who does the ear tag and vaccination.

This is hard, dirty work, and it requires a fairly large working party. Our elderly neighbors (the ones with whom we butchered the bull) branded 35 calves yesterday and we went to their house to watch. Well, the children and I watched. A. was pressed into service to hold the calves.

He learned quite a few tricks in the process. And got very muddy and sore.

Last, I will leave you with a sunrise shapshot, which is quite misty thanks to the regular rain we've been getting.


There you have it! My life, snapshotted.