Friday, December 8, 2023

Friday Food: Illness and Elk


Short version: Elk and ram stew, crackers, cheese

Long version: We butchered our older ram last month (keeping one of the ram lambs as our flock ram), so I took a bag of stew meat from that out of the freezer. It wasn't a lot of meat, though, so I also took out  bag of elk stew meat.

I made this stew the day before and left it right in the pot to refrigerate. I knew I would be getting home right at dinnertime after a trip to physical therapy in the afternoon and the obligatory stop at the grocery store afterward, followed by an hour and a half drive.

That is indeed what happened. I got home right at 5 p.m., put the pot of stew on the stove, heated it while I put away groceries, and served it with the crackers. Also cheese for those who wanted it.

Incidentally, I used the last of the turkey stock in this stew. Always a good feeling to finish the very last of the turkey from Thanksgiving.


Short version: Fried elk strips, mashed potatoes, frozen green peas

Long version: Elk steaks, cut into thin strips, then fried and finished off with onions and cream to make a kind of gravy. Simple, but tasty. Especially with mashed potatoes.


Short version: Elk stir-fry, rice, baked custard

Long version: I had mushrooms, carrots, and onions to add to the bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables, which were heavy on the green beans. 

I can never resist taking a picture of stir-fry. It's so colorful and pretty. Something that cannot be said of most of my food.

I made the baked custard for the sick child with a bad sore throat. Custard is a favorite sick-child food in our house. It is very easy to swallow, and incredibly high in nutrition, given all the eggs, milk, and cream in it. A good thing to eat for skinny kids who don't want to eat a lot of anything, but need the calories.


Short version: Elk fried rice, or eggs and leftover mashed potatoes

Long version: I had made a very large pot of rice the day before, counting on it for other meals this week. This was the first of those. I just chopped up the rest of the stir-fry and fried that with the rice and some scrambled eggs.

Fried eggs and mashed potatoes for the one child whose throat still hurt, and the one child who isn't a fan of fried rice.


Short version: Spaghetti and meatballs, green salad with vinaigrette

Long version: I made the meatballs with--what else?--elk. I had also roasted what might be the last pan of garden tomatoes from the box in the kitchen. Since I was planning on making the spaghetti, I also roasted garlic along with the tomatoes and used that and the tomatoes to make the sauce for the pasta and meatballs.


Short version: Sandwiches, grapes, yogurt

Long version: I got home at 5:45 p.m. from the First Communion class. Luckily, I had already planned on sandwiches. I had fresh bread I had baked the day before, and both deli ham and salami, so everyone got to choose what they wanted. They could also have leftover spaghetti if they were still hungry.

Grapes because I was too rushed and lazy to even cut up carrot sticks. And yogurt for those who were still hungry after what was, admittedly, not the most filling of dinners.

Everyone was satisfied in the end, though. And actually, they were pretty excited about having sandwiches for dinner. It's a rare treat for us to have deli meat sandwiches like that.


Short version: Elkloaf, rice, chicken-rice soup

Long version: I used some of the meatball mixture to form a small meatloaf on Tuesday. That was just waiting in the refrigerator to be baked. I was scheduled to substitute at school this day, so I planned on sticking that in the oven when I got home. Despite its somewhat small size, it still wasn't quite done when it was time to eat. So I just sliced it and fried the slices in some butter to cook all the way through.

I knew that meatloaf wouldn't be enough for everyone, but two different kids had come down with the latest plague and had sore throats, so I made soup for them.

I had a couple of cups of chicken breast from the last chicken I had roasted that I had put in the freezer for just this situation. I didn't have any homemade chicken stock, so I used Better than Bouillon. I did saute onion and garlic, but for the rest of the vegetables, I used a can of something we got from excess commodities called Veg-All. It's a mixture of canned vegetables, including carrots, green beans, corn, and potatoes. 

I've never used this before, and I was a little wary about the flavor of canned vegetables, but it was fine in the soup. I added the last bit of tomato sauce to boost the flavor a bit, too, along with a teaspoon or so of vinegar.

The soup expanded, as soup always does, until there was very little room in the pot.

Soup's on!

This made a very respectable soup that was ready to eat half an hour after I walked in the door. Not too shabby.

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

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Growing Food: Aunt Belva's Pickled Beets

Okay! I failed last week to give you this recipe, but now Aunt Belva's recipe for pickled beets is going global.

Or as global as this blog gets, I guess.

Aunt Belva was not my aunt. She was actually the aunt of A.'s uncle by marriage. He (the uncle) is from southern Indiana, and so, presumably, was Aunt Belva. I got this recipe from A.'s aunt. The one that's married to the uncle. Who was Aunt Belva's nephew.

Got all that? Yeah, never mind.

In any case, this is an excellent recipe for pickled beets. One of the different things about it is that it uses equal amounts sugar and vinegar. I had never tried making any other kind of brine for pickled beets, so a couple of years ago I tried a recipe from a newer canning cookbook I have* that promised a much less sweet pickled beet, using about half the amount of sugar.

They certainly were less sweet. They were also almost inedibly vinegary. I managed to finish them by using them in very small amounts in salads, but it was not enjoyable. Lesson learned: Equal amounts of vinegar and sugar make for much better pickled beets.

I didn't have enough beets from the garden to pickle this year, because they, like everything else, succumbed to the hail and grassphoppers. 

Chickens in the garden, but not in the beets.

However, my sister brought me three big beets from the store when she visited a few months ago. I decided the best use for them would be to pickle them, so I went back to Aunt Belva's recipe. And I found I love them just as much now as I did when I first tried them. They have plenty of vinegar in them, too, but it's balanced by quite a lot of sugar. They taste just as pickled beets should.

I have to note here, as this is a canning recipe, that this is not the vinegar ratio approved by the USDA for water bath canning. All the recipes for water bath canning pickled beets use twice as much vinegar as sugar, which is similar to the newer recipe I tried and didn't like. 

This recipe does, however, have the same amount of vinegar per pounds of beets to be canned as the approved recipes, it's just that it also increases the sugar a lot. I don't have any problem canning it in a water bath. Neither did A.'s aunt, who always canned hers in a water bath. If that makes you nervous, though, you can just skip the canning and store them in the refrigerator, or pressure can them.

Aunt Belva's Pickled Beets

Ingredients for Brine

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

2 cups cider vinegar

1 teaspoon ground allspice (I don't have this, and have never used it)

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves


1) The recipe I got didn't specify an amount of beets, but A.'s aunt told me it's for about three pounds. I typically roast them whole, then peel them and cut them into a dice. I like them diced because I use them in salads, but you can also leave them whole or slice them.

2) Heat all brine ingredients together until hot, either in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.

3) Put the prepared beets in clean, sterilized, and hot pint jars, cover with the hot brine, put on the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes at low altitude. Or, in my case, for 40 minutes, because I am not at low altitude.

* It's called Canning for a New Generation. I've tried a couple of recipes from it, and honestly, I was not all that impressed with them. It's a fun book to read, but I can't really recommend the recipes. It's a little too modern for me, I guess.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Snapshots: Snow and Sunrise

When I went for my run/walk on Thursday, it was 38 degrees with a bit of snow blowing around. 


I needed something light and waterproof, but I don't own a windbreaker. However, one of my sons is now about my size (or . . . taller, ahem), and he has a windbreaker. So I borrowed it.

I knew my dad would appreciate this. (He's an Air Force Academy graduate and is the reason we have this.)

Construction at school meant that I had to find a new office. The lack of space, and the fact that I only work two days a week and don't have to have students in my office, resulted in a, um, unique space.

I now work in half of the old concession kitchen. The stove and everything is on the other side of that divider.

I do have a pretty rad mural right above my computer monitor, though.

Can you find Nemo?

I went for a walk in a different direction yesterday morning.

I waved to the bulls at sunrise.

Then I fed Bill.

And the sheep.

This one stuck her head right where I was tossing the hay over the fence and ended up with a green wig.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.