Saturday, November 25, 2023

For the Home Cooks

After reading the comments on the last post that detailed all the elaborate Thanksgiving meals catering to traditions that must not be deviated from, vegans and vegetarians, multiple desserts for multiple tastes, as well as continuing to cook all the other food for your families all the rest of the week . . .

I salute you all. 

It's a sometimes thankless (ha) job to be the main cook in a household, and that goes double for holidays. It's so much work and planning and time in the kitchen. But there was so much delicious food that came out of our kitchens, and it made people important to us happy.

You did good. I'm proud of you. 

And I hope there were lots of leftovers that made it easy to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible for at least a couple of days.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Friday Food: Turkey (and Elk) Time


Short version: Chicken soup, PB&J sandwiches, cookie bars

Long version: This was the day we spent all day at the basketball tournament. I figured we'd probably eat one meal out--that turned out to be lunch at Sonic--but I brought food for the other meal. There were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a Thermos of chicken-rice soup, and chocolate chip cookie bars. 

On the way home, at 8 p.m. the children ate the rest of the almonds that had been in the car, and also the cold french fries leftover from Sonic. 

It doesn't matter what time of day it is, or how much they've eaten previously: If we are in the car for an hour the children will want to eat. I knew they would eat the french fries on the way home, even if they were cold. That's why I saved them.


Short version: Pizza, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I made just one pizza, with bacon, because A. wasn't home. He was in Tucson visiting his dad. So I didn't need so much pizza.

I made ranch dressing, too, for the pizza dipping, but I put vinaigrette on the salad.


Short version: Elk steaks, spaghetti, frozen green peas, toffee bars

Long version: Plain spaghetti with butter and garlic powder, cooked frozen peas . . .

And the toffee bars.

One child announced he wanted to make a "special cookie." He chose toffee bars. This is a recipe in my old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It's pretty involved, with three separate layers, a bowl, a pot, and so on. Not something I'm willing to do regularly, but the children liked them.


Short version: Elk and bean chimichangas, carrot sticks

Long version: I unfortunately started to feel the full effects of a cold this day, and reeeaally did not want to cook. But the show must go on!

I had two small elk steaks left that hadn't been cooked yet, so I diced those and simmered them with salsa and spices. Then I added in the last half of a pint jar of pinto beans, put that mixture in flour tortillas with cheese, and fried that in butter.


Short version: Barbecue meatballs, baked potatoes, frozen green peas

Long version: Still feeling poorly. I took out a bag of bull meat fromthe freezer and made meatballs with that. Those just bake for an hour or so, which is why I also shoved some potatoes in the oven (using this trick first to make sure they cooked through) and a Pyrex bowl of frozen peas to heat up.

One oven for the full meal is the easiest way to get a balanced dinner on the table.


Short version: Elk steaks, bread and butter, frozen green peas

Long version: If you see both bread and butter and frozen peas in the same meal, you can pretty much guarantee that I was SO OVER the kitchen by the time dinnertime rolled around.

I took the post-surgical child for his first physical therapy appointment in the morning. The appointment was at 8 a.m. in a city 100 miles away, so we left while it was still dark. That's why I randomly grabbed a bag of meat from the freezer on the dark porch before we left, figuring I could come up with something to do with it later.

"Later" was at 5 p.m. after I had spent two hours in the kitchen making pies and cranberry sauce. And cleaning up from making pies and cranberry sauce. 

In progress: Cranberry sauce done, lemons for lemon meringue pie juiced and zested, squash awaiting its pie shell. And dishes. So many dishes.

I was not inspired at dinnertime, so I just fried the steaks in butter with random spices on there, microwaved the peas in a bowl, and added the bread to round everything out.

And then I absented myself from the kitchen, leaving the literal piles of dishes still in the sink to A. I decided it would be best to delegate what kitchen work I could so I didn't burn out entirely and spend all of Thanksgiving resentful of the constant kitchen tasks.

That was a good call. It worked, too.


Short version: Hoo boy.

Long version: This year's Thanksgiving meal included the following:


And there it is!

--Sourdough dressing

--Mashed potatoes

--Roasted carrots and parsnips

When A. dug what I thought were two parsnips, he actually found four. Thanksgiving bonus!

--Green salad with vinaigrette

--Cranberry sauce


--Pumpkin pie

--Pumpkin custard

--Lemon meringue pie


--Whipped cream

Dessert spread. The whipped cream was on a small table to the right.

I definitely made more dessert than I would typically, because we had a guest. Our priest joined us for dinner. I myself don't really love pie, so I thought it would be nice to have something not pie-related, in case he was also not a pie person. Brownies (these) are the fastest and easiest non-pie dessert I can make, and our guest did eat two brownies, so that was probably a good call.

The lemon meringue pie was really good, though. I'm not sure it was good enough to make the same fussy recipe next year, but it did have an excellent result. And A. assured me that I have found the pumpkin pie recipe I should use forever (this one, with a few modifications), so I guess that was a hit, too.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Giving Thanks

Good morning! It's 4:40 a.m., I have my coffee, and I'm plotting and planning how the rest of the day will go.

For me, it will go almost entirely in the kitchen, of course, but at least I have a head start.

Cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie, all made yesterday. Not pictured: The custard I baked with the extra pie filling, because there is always extra pie filling. How big are other people's pie plates?

I also made the turkey stock with the nasty bits pulled from the turkey's cavity. That has to be one of my least-favorite Thanksgiving tasks. It was made worse this year by the fact that I was doing it at 5:30 yesterday morning before I took the post-surgical child to his first physical therapy appointment in a city. Also, there was still a chunk of ice inside the turkey, because it had only been thawing for two days. I had to run cold water in the cavity, pry out the chunk of ice encasing the neck, and then scrub out my sink, because raw turkey juices are seriously yuck.

All this before 6 a.m.

Anyway! That's done. All that's left are dressing--I made extra sourdough bread for this a few days ago--mashed potatoes, salad, and actually roasting the turkey. And making gravy. Oh! And digging up the parsnips so I can roast those with carrots.

That's not so much, right? Right. The pies are the worst part for me anyway, so I'm glad they're done.

Not so much the happy little baker here.

Regardless of the kitchen work to be done, there is much to be thankful for today. I will meditate on this as I scrub my two parsnips.

Happiest of Thanksgivings to everyone! Enjoy your feast, whatever that looks like for you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Growing Food: Thanksgiving!

It's coooommmmminnng! This Thursday is The Big Day. Well, for all Americans who are into food and do their own cooking. I know that's not everyone. But it is certainly me.

Up until three years ago, I had never made a traditional Thanksgiving meal. I don't actually like turkey myself, so I was not motivated to cook it. However, I finally bowed to pressure from my sons, who insisted that Thanksgiving must feature turkey. And gravy. And mashed potatoes. And dressing. And pumpkin pie. But most importantly, all of these must be in enough quantity that the bottom of the serving dish is never seen the day of feasting.

My favorite part of our Thanksgiving feast is the green beans with bacon and onions. Unfortunately, the terrible garden season this year meant I didn't freeze any green beans. The "fresh" green beans I saw at the grocery store last week looked disgusting, and I refuse to make it with frozen green beans. They're just not good enough.

So no green beans this year. Sad.

But! I do have two stubborn parsnips that weathered everything thrown at them this year, so I think this year I'll make roasted parsnips and carrots instead of green beans.

I will also make a green salad. The lettuce will have to be from the store, but the tomatoes in it will be from the garden. Or rather, from the garden tomatoes still hanging out in their box on the floor.

The last ingredient from the garden that will grace our Thanksgiving table will be the squash I use for the pumpkin pie.

And there it is!

We only got four squash from the garden this year, but all I need for the pie is one. That one up there made six cups of pureed squash. That's enough for two pies according to this recipe, which is the one I'm following. Except I use the MiL's recipe for pie dough. And I reduced the ginger a bit. And I will not be messing around with the beans for blind baking the crust.

I did mostly follow the instructions for the filling, though. I roasted and pureed the squash yesterday. Then I decided to just go ahead and simmer the squash with the sugar, maple syrup, and spices. That way, all I have to do to finish the pie is make the crust, add the dairy ingredients to the filling, and bake it. 

Spicy squash.

I would like to do this on Wednesday to get it done ahead of time, but I'm not sure there will be room in my refrigerator for this pie. Especially because one child insists that he is going to make a lemon meringue pie this year, and that will definitely need to be done on Wednesday. I've never made one, and I do not want to be scrambling to get that done on Thanksgiving morning.


I'll miss the green beans this year, but I am thankful to have the parsnips, tomatoes, and squash. And thankfulness is what it's all about, after all.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Snapshots: A Day Out

We spent all day Friday away from the house, which is very unusual for us. Our new basketball player had a tournament about an hour away. His first game was at 9 a.m. The next wasn't until 6 p.m. It's too far to go home, but we really didn't want to just sit around the gym for eight hours.

So we went on an adventure.

We drove to the nearest small city, which was about half an hour away. It wasn't even lunchtime yet, so we stopped at a park on our way in to let the younger children who had been sitting a lot already run around. It wasn't the best park ever, but it did have a nice tree in it.


There was also a swinging bench thing, similar to a porch swing, that could fit everyone on it. We swung on that for awhile.

The view from the swing.

After that, by request, we went to Sonic for lunch, where everyone ate far too much and declared themselves uncomfortably full.

We still had a few hours to kill after lunch. I half-heartedly considered historical museums and so on, before remembering, hey! There's a library in this place! So of course, that is where we went.

It had been, um, years since my children had been in a library. Actually, it's been years since I've been in a library. We were all very excited. This is a pretty small library, but it still had lots of books, some fish in a tank, a place to draw with chalk, even an old typewriter where I showed my age by demonstrating to my children how it worked.


Perhaps most exciting of all, they had several shelves of free books for the taking. So of course we took some. 

After that we went to the grocery store for the Thanksgiving stock-up, and then back to the basketball tournament for several more hours. We didn't get home until 8 p.m.

The children were exhausted after our very long day and slept in quite late the next morning. I have recently started running again--although running is a generous word for the pace I keep--and I prefer to go in the morning. I just run a repeated loop around the interior of our ghost village, so I'm always within yelling distance of our house.

I left the sleeping children this note:

Four out of four children are now capable of reading this, which is neat.

I left it on the closed toilet lid, figuring that's the one place everyone goes in the morning. One child was awake when I got back, but he had apparently not seen my note. So much for that.

There you have it! My life, shapshotted.