Friday, January 12, 2024

Friday Food: Back to School


Short version: Ram curry, rice

Long version: One child had been requesting curry, so I made some with a bag of ram chili meat. I only have sweet yellow curry powder, so that's what I used. 

I used the very last of my carrots in the curry, and I thought I didn't have any potatoes left, but then I remembered the small bucket of garden potatoes I still had. So I used some of those.

Very satisfying.

I always add dairy to curry at the end. This time, it was a bunch of sour cream.


Short version: Epiphany tamales, truffles

Long version: I had to postpone our traditional Christmas Day tamales to Epiphany due to lack of time before Christmas. Techinically still Christmas. It counts.

I was out of onions, so I used some of the green tomato salsa in the meat, since that had onions in it. 

I don't have any homemade chicken stock this winter, and I needed stock for the masa mixture. I did have the liquid left from braising the pork roast a few days earlier, though, so I used that. I had just enough for a double batch of tamales.

I also had just enough tallow left from the big batch I had rendered a few weeks prior. And the last two jars of pressure-canned bull meat for the filling. 

They actually needed more spice, which is not something I typically say.

The truffles were Lindt milk chocolate ones. I always buy a big box of them--the 60-count one--to put in stockings on Christmas Day, and then some for Epiphany, too.


Short version: Re-worked curry, leftover rice, chocolate ice cream

Long version: Most of the meat was eaten out of the curry, but there was a lot of liquid and some vegetables left. So I added some yellow split peas to it. 

I wasn't sure if the tomato in the curry would keep the split peas from getting soft--like the infamous baked beans debacle--so I decided to play it safe and cook the split peas before adding them to the curry. I just cooked them in water and salt until they were soft, then added the curry to it to heat all the way up.

Everyone liked the curry better this way, so I need to remember to use the split peas whenever I made curry. It does thicken it up nicely.


Short version: Bull enchilada casserole, baked fruit with cream

Long version: We woke up to an honest-to-goodness blizzard in the morning, which blew almost all day. This of course meant that we were home for school. And that meant the dreaded Zoom school.


Getting four kids--and myself--on and off Zoom meetings, as well as supervising their actual school work, puts me in a very bad mood. No one else was too thrilled about it, either, so I made a dessert to cheer us all up.

All I did was dump storebought frozen blueberries and strawberries in a casserole dish, add one very wrinkly apple languishing in the refrigerator that I peeled and diced, a bit of vanilla, and a bunch of the too-sweet peach jam from a couple summers ago, and then cook it. I actually microwaved it for about ten minutes, to get everything thawed and starting to release the juices, and then I put it in the oven with the enchilada casserole I had made between Zoom meetings.

The fruit was still way too liquidy when the casserole was done, and also not sweet enough. So I spooned out most of the juices and reduced those on the stove to a syrup, then added them back to the fruit with more sugar.

It was kind of annoying, but I got it done. And it was very good with cream poured over it.


Short version: Pork, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, pureed squash

Long version: This was a pork sirloin roast, which is really too lean to braise like a picnic roast. But it was frozen solid, so I couldn't cut it into chops or whatever. Braising it is. That made it tender. Frying it in bacon grease took care of the leanness.

While the pork was in the oven, I also baked one of the garden squash. I always puree squash--this time with my immersion blender--because I really hate stringy squash. I added butter and maple syrup to this, which was very indulgent of me.

When my menus feature sauerkraut, squash, and frozen peas as the only vegetables, it means my refrigerator looks like this.

Slim pickin's.

This happens every winter. And that is what squash and sauerkraut are for.


Short version: Elk chunks, spaghetti, leftover mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, frozen peas

Long version: I had chunked up an elk tenderloin the night before and then put a marinade over it of salt, garlic powder, thyme, olive oil, and vinegar. Then they just needed to be fried when I got home from the First Communion class.

The eldest child made the spaghetti with, I think, butter, cream cheese, and a lot of black pepper.


Short version: Chorizo and scrambled egg burritos, carrot sticks

Long version: I had to substitute this day, so I had taken out a bag of elk chorizo to thaw in anticipation of needing a quick and easy dinner after work. I did, and this was.

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

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Tamale Tips

It has become a tradition in our house to make tamales for Christmas. This is very in keeping with our current location, as tamales are a traditional meal in New Mexico. Every grocery store sells the ingredients needed to make them, conveniently collected together on their end caps around Christmas.

They are a lot of work.

Look how cute, though.

Despite the effort involved in making them, they get easier and faster to make with each attempt.

The problem is that, since I only make them once a year, I forget things from year to year and esssentially have to re-learn those things every year.

But I have this handy blog! I frequently search my own site for recipes I've found online in the past, or things I've done and can't remember. So I decided this year to post my own tips for making tamales, so I can reference them in years to come. And then, of course, they might help some of you. Should you also feel the urge to make tamales at some point.

It could happen.


--I use this recipe for the masa mixture, except I don't put the chile in it. I did put some of the liquid from cooking my meat this time, but the masa could be more highly spiced.

--I never have lard, so I use tallow instead. If I don't have enough tallow--it uses so much tallow; SO MUCH--then I can make up the difference with butter or rendered sheep fat.

--I like the instruction to slap the masa mixture with your flat hand. If nothing sticks to your hand and it gets shiny from the fat, it's good to go. My children like doing this, too.

--Making a double recipe of the masa mixture does not give me 60 tamales, as the recipe says it will. I got 45 this time. But we ate exactly half of those, so that's about right for a double recipe for our family. These are very heavy. No one eats more than four.

--I never follow a recipe for the meat filling. I always use beef, because I think it's tastier when re-heated. Anything shreddy will work. But because there is so little in each tamale--only about two tablespoons of meat--it needs to be very highly spiced. If it tastes too strong on its own, it's good for tamales. I don't like really spicy tamales, which is why I make my own, but the meat mixture this year needed more spice in it.

--I always end up with a lot of extra meat when I've run out of masa. This is okay, because I can freeze it for another meal, but probably 1.5 pounds of meat would be fine, instead of the 2 pounds called for in the recipe I use for the masa.

--Forget the instruction to soak the corn husks "in a large bowl." No one has a bowl that big. Use the sink.

--A one-pound bag of corn husks has over a hundred husks in it. Soak about half of them. (I put the whole bag in this time, and then had to dry out all the extra ones to save them. Luckily, things dry easily here, especially by our woodstove this time of year.)

--I have to use a ruler to figure out how wide a 5-inch corn husk is. Eyeballing it does not work for me.

The tamale station, with a handy blue ruler so measure with.

--I cannot spread the masa mixture with a knife, despite the instructions. Instead, I roll a log of masa, put it on the corn husk, and smoosh it around with my fingers. This probably means that my layer of masa is thicker than it's supposed to be--and that's why I run out of masa before getting to 60 tamales--but it doesn't stick to my fingers. It does stick to a knife.

--These have to be tied to keep them together. And the pieces of corn husk to tie them cannot be too thin, or they will tear when pulled tight. So annoying.

--Children LOVE to help make tamales. If you have multiple children helping, set them up in a line on the counter, in order of their jobs, with a flat surface for each of them. The most competent child will at the end, tying the tamales together. The second most competent child is in charge of spreading the masa. The other two jobs are putting the meat mixture in the middle, and folding the tamale for tying. If you have another child, they can rinse off, measure, and cut the corn husks to size.

--It will take twice as long for an assembly line of children to make tamales as it will take you on your own. Accept this, put on some music, and settle in.

--This time, it took about an hour and a half to assemble 45 tamales. I did about half on my own, though, before the children came in from playing in the snow and wanted to help. I was in the kitchen preparing the meat and masa, soaking the husks, etc. for a little more than 2 hours. This does not count rendering the tallow or cooking the beef, which had already been done.

--I steam them using my giant pressure canner/cooker as a regular pot, and it takes one hour for them to be done.

Tamale pot. Tamales are just so aesthically pleasing.

That ended up being a lot more tips than I thought it would. It should be helpful next year when I'm planning my attack the tamales. 

Have you ever made tamales? Do you have tips for me?

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Snapshots: Light

Let's start with a girl in a box.

She actually fell asleep in this, which was pretty funny.

When my sister visited in October, she left us some little seasonal decorative candles. I forgot about the Christmas ones until this week, so I put them all out at once.

In a blaze of glory, you might say.

I'm Church Lady this month, and when I got there early last Sunday, the morning sun was coming in through a side window at just the right angle to spotlight the Christmas tree at the front of the church.

It was more dramatic in person.

It's certainly woodstove season now.

Moody embers in the morning.

My brother and his daughter arrived Wednesday afternoon, and we immediately took her for a horse ride since we knew a snowstorm was on its way.

Good old Cora.

The next morning started mostly clear.

With some clouds to reflect the rising sun.

But later that same day . . .

Stoic bull in the snow.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.