Friday, January 5, 2024

Friday Food: Pecan Pie for the New Year


Short version: Crispy elk tacos, still-frozen green peas

Long version: A. and one son were gone, so for the other three, I made tacos by quickly frying corn tortillas to make them pliable, putting in leftover elk steak, cheese, and salsa, and then frying them until they were crispy and the cheese was melted.

If the whole family had been here, I would not have done this, because I would have had to make too many. I made eight, and that's about the amount I want to deal with frying.


Short version: Ram and elk stew, cheese, cornbread

Long version: I used one small bag of ram stew meat for this, plus the rest of the elk steak, and some beef tallow. So three kinds of animals contributed to this stew.

I made the cornbread because I found two bags of cornmeal in the big freezer when I was organizing it. I need to use more cornmeal.


Short version: Elk chorizo and scrambled eggs, leftover cornbread, chocolate ice cream

Long version: I spent much of the day in the kitchen making the black-eyed peas for New Year's Day, as well as a pecan pie. The elk chorizo was the first thing I grabbed out of the freezer. It made a good, fast dinner, and was a good pairing with the leftover cornbread.

The only tricky thing about chorizo is that all the parprika in it makes it hard to tell when it's actually cooked.

When in doubt, cook longer. (This is with the eggs.)

The ice cream gave me the opportunity to finally use the last of the salted caramel sauce from the birthday dinner two weeks ago.


Short version: The whole New Year's Day shebang

Long version: On New Year's Day, we must ensure our health, wealth, and happiness in the new year with pork, greens, and black-eyed peas, respectively. And, in my house, rice for peace.

This year, the pork was a picnic shoulder that I cooked slowly, pulled apart, and broiled with the rendered fat and juices, mustard, and maple syrup.

I had no greens from my garden this year, but I did still have about a cup of blanched beet greens from summer before last that were still in the freezer. And then I decided sauerkraut counts, too. The cabbage was green at one point. And sauerkraut is delicious with pork.

I had made the black-eyed peas the day before. I had also made a pecan pie.

I have never made a pecan pie. I don't think I have ever even eaten a pecan pie. But one child enthusiastically informed me that pecan pie is his favorite, this while he was eating the pie provided by the school cafeteria for their Christmas meal.

I thought if he loved a Sysco pecan pie, he would really love a homemade pecan pie. So I made one.

And then I took a picture. 

I mostly used this recipe for the filling, except I toasted the pecans as recommended in this one. I was going to do the chocolate layer also mentioned in that second recipe, but that would have required yet another session of chilling, and I was kind of over the making of the pie by that point. So I just did the standard filling.

It was very good. Very nutty, and not too sweet. I whipped cream for it, too, although I have no idea if that is traditional. About half the family ate it with the whipped cream.

The only problem I had with it was that it was not very solid and pretty much fell apart while I was cutting it. I don't think it needed to bake longer. Maybe it was the fact that I used the maple syrup instead of corn syrup. The fact that all the pecan halves were left whole also made it harder to cut. 

I don't know. Everyone liked it, though, even if the pieces were not very aesthetic.


Short version: Tuna-rice casserole, still-frozen peas, pureed squash

Long version: I had a lot of rice left over from the day before, so I used it to make a casserole with a big can of tuna. I fried a few pieces of bacon, diced those, and cooked onion and celery in the bacon grease. Then I put in some mayonnaise, milk, and grated cheese, along with salt and pepper. Kind of like tuna-noodle casserole, except with rice.


Short version: Elk burgers on homemade buns, roasted potatoes, green salad with ranch dressing, cookies

Long version: My brother and one of his daughters arrived for a quick visit this day. I had been making bread the day before, so I used some of that to make hamburger buns. 

Hamburger buns rising on the counter. The two glass pans on the bottom have the buns in them. I stacked the bigger pan on top of the smaller one, and then covered the bigger one with a cutting board, thus creating a tower of buns. This way they didn't take up all my counter space while rising.

I used the very last two bags of ground elk to make the burgers. I'll have to get out some of our excessive elk stew meat to grind. Ground meat is much easier for me to use than stew meat.

It belatedly occurred to me that I had replicated a very standard traveling meal of hamburgers and french fries. Sure enough, my niece did indeed have a hamburger while traveling, but I'm confident mine was better.

The cookies were standard chocolate chip, except I replaced some of the butter with peanut butter. So good. 


Short version: Carnita-ish tacos on corn tortillas, pinto beans, brownies

Long version: Real carnitas fry in their own fat after all the liquid from stewing it has evaporated. These weren't real carnitas, because all I did was stew the pork roast, then remove it, shred it, and fry it in its rendered fat with cumin, chile powder, and paprika.

Since it was a snowy day and we were all home all day, I made the corn tortillas myself. 

I used my last jar of pressure-canned pinto beans, so that's going on the list of things I need to make soon, along with more ground elk.

And the brownies were extras from . . . some holiday event that required a baked treat. I can't actually remember. Whatever it was, I had stashed some extra brownies in the freezer so as not to add to the sugar overload during the last week of school. That was an excellent idea, as they came in very handy for dessert this night.

I didn't make a separate vegetable, but there were lettuce, tomatoes, and onions out for topping the tacos.

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

Monday, January 1, 2024

A Recipe for Happiness

Any of you who have been reading here for more than a year will know that I make the same thing for our New Year's Day dinner every year: pork for health, greens for wealth, and black-eyed peas for happiness. My New-Orleans-raised mother always made this, and now I do.

Every year, for my entire adult life. 

That means that I've been talking about this here for fifteen years now, and yet, I have never given you a recipe.

So now I will.

New Year's Day Black-Eyed Peas 


1 pound of dry black-eyed peas

1 ham bone

4 tablespoons canola oil, lard, or bacon grease

4 tablespoons flour

1 large or two small onions, diced

1 bell pepper, diced (I always use red, because I don't like green, but green is traditional)

2 stalks celery, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small can plain tomato sauce, or half a can tomato paste

1 bay leaf


1) Pick through and rinse off the black-eyed peas. I always pick through them and rarely find anything, but this last time I found a pea-sized rock, which is why I always do it.

2) Soak your black-eyed peas in a big pot. You can soak overnight, but I never think ahead that far. I just cover them with water, bring them to a boil, and then turn off the heat and leave them to sit for an hour or two.

3) Drain the water off, and put fresh water in the pot to cover the black-eyed peas and the ham bone. I always have a ham bone from Christmas, and this is a good use for it. If you don't have the bone, you can just use ham, but don't put that in yet.

4) Simmer the black-eyed peas until soft, about an hour or so. The ham bone won't be soft enough yet, but that's okay. It can stay in there.

5) Dice up all your vegetables so they're ready to add to the roux. It will look like too many vegetables. It is not.

This is what makes it taste good.

6) Make a roux with the oil, lard, or bacon fat. Heat the fat on medium heat and then sprinkle in the flour. Use a flat spoon to scrape and stir the flour around. This will take fifteen minutes or so. It will look pretty separate the whole time, but that's fine. You can be a little more negiligent to start, but once the flour starts browning, you really need to stir pretty constantly. When the flour is a medium dark brown color, it's done.

Done roux.

7) Add all the vegetables except the garlic to the roux and cook on low heat until the vegetables are soft. Then add the garlic and cook just a minute longer.

8) Dump all the vegetables into the black-eyed peas, add the bay leaf, the tomato product, and ham now if you didn't have the bone, and simmer the whole thing on low heat uncovered for a long time. Like two hours.

9) When the ham on the ham bone pulls off easily, remove the bone from the pot, let it cool a bit, and then pull all the ham off. Shred it and put it back in the pot and continue simmering.

10) Toward the end of the cooking time, you need to be scraping the bottom of the pot and stirring it frequently so it doesn't stick. This is also when you want to taste it and see if it needs more salt. I wait until now to do this because the ham adds quite a bit of salt and the whole thing reduces so much that it would be easy to over-salt it earlier in the cooking.

When the black-eyed peas have broken down quite a bit to thicken it all and there isn't much liquid left, it's done.

Done black-eyed peas. You can see it's about two inches lower than when it started cooking.

Some of my kids like these on their own, and some like them on rice. Either way, add butter and vinegar to taste at the table.

This makes a lot of black-eyed peas, but if you're going to spend four hours making anything, you'd better make enough for leftovers. Also, they freeze really well, so don't be afraid to make a lot. It just means more happiness--and delicious food--for you.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Snapshots: A Christmas Church

I forgot to include this first photo in the last post about food. So let's just drop it right here, shall we?

All the things I froze or canned that were used in our Christmas Eve chili. 

I learned something from my eldest son this week. He had put a can of seltzer in the freezer to chill quickly and left it in there a little too long. It was too slushy to drink normally, but apparently, you can use a can opener to cut the top off of cans like this and it makes a very clean cut on the can.

The lid, on the other hand, is crazy sharp, so use caution if you try this.

I am still befuddled as to why only one part of that is sharp, but it is.

And last, my favorite thing from last week.

Our neighbor about half a mile away lives right next door to the old stone church in our mostly abandoned village. Every Christmas season, he sets up three spotlights on the side of the church. Due to the darkness that surrounds the church, this has the effect of making the church glow for literally miles.

I can see it out my kitchen window, and I love it. I had never gotten a photo of it, though, so I took the kids with me on a night walk to the church so I could take a picture of it.


A closer look.

I didn't realize until after we had started walking that there was a full moon that night, so we didn't even need the flashlights we had brought.

That's the moon obscured by clouds in the sky, and on the ground are the spotlights. Kinda looks like the ground is on fire, though.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.