Friday, May 31, 2024

Friday Food: Stuffed Grape Leaves


Short version: Omelets, strawberries

Long version: I was not feeling well at dinnertime, so I turned the kitchen over to A. Fortuitously, my friend had dropped off several dozen eggs the day before, so there were plenty for A. to make omelets, which he likes to do.

I think these had onion, ham, and cheese in them. 

I had been to the store this day. Strawberries were on sale, so the children had those instead of a vegetable. This was no hardship for them.


Short version: Hamburgers, oven fries, roasted asparagus, cucumbers with salt and vinegar, gingersnaps

Long version: I asked all the children if they had any requests from the grocery store, and one child asked me to get ground beef. The big rolls of ground beef--called, disgustingly, chubs--were on sale, so I got one of those. And then I used some of it this night to make hamburgers.

I have not cooked with store ground beef in . . . well, I'm not sure. A couple of years, maybe. It was alarming how much the meat shrunk in the pan. Also surprising how soft it was. We're accustomed to more chew to our beef now, I guess.

I can't wait until we have a whole cow in our freezers again.

I made the gingersnaps per a child's request (no pepper in mine, though). Now that the cookies aren't being used as a school snack, I don't worry so much about getting protein into them. So I can make purely dessert cookies. Gingersnaps qualify.


Short version: Dolmades, lamb steaks, random potatoes, tzatziki, pots de creme

Long version: A. was pruning his grape vines and came in with a bunch of leaves. "We can make stuffed grape leaves!" he said enthusiastically.

There was, of course, not so much a "we" making them, as a "me," but that's what happens when you present something like fresh grape leaves to me.

I used this recipe as a guideline, except (always) I didn't have the mint for the filling, and I didn't have enough grape leaves to line the bottom of the pot before steaming. Nor did I have tomato slices to layer in the bottom of the pot. So instead, I used the trimmings from taking the stems off the leaves, as well as the green part from some new garlic A. had dug up that day. In place of the tomato slices, I used slices of potato.

Good enough.

Filling and rolling the (blanched) grape leaves was challenging, because the variety of grape that A. had trimmed had leaves that did not look like the grape leaves in the recipe I used. Mine had more lobes on them, and thus, were not as wide.

I believe these are from the Cartegena variety, which is relatively rare and thus not used to make mass quantities of jarred grape leaves for commercial sale.

I sort of pieced together what I had, overlapping as necessary, and ended up with fourteen small dolmades*.

Not the prettiest rolling job, but the best I could do with what I had.

I used some lamb stock from the freezer to boil/steam these. I was supposed to cook them until the liquid had been absorbed all the way, but that never happened. Probably because the pot wasn't full. That worked out, though, because I had a lot of the filling left, so I just cooked that in the remainder of the liquid.

So how were the dolmades?

Certainly not the prettiest food.

They were okay. I thought they were sort of bland and mushy, but A., who has actually eaten them before, loved them. He informed me that they must be drizzled with olive oil before being eaten, so I guess that helps? I don't know. They didn't seem worth it to me, but they made him happy.

Everyone was happy with the pots de creme, which I hadn't made in awhile.

Oh, and those potato slices I lined the pot with came in handy to fill out dinner a little. The kids ate them with their lamb, slightly smashed with butter.


Short version: Unstuffed dolmades filling, raw cabbage, cookies

Long version: This was the filling I had cooked in the remaining lamb stock. I was informed by one child that it needed more meat in it, but everyone ate it without complaint.

The cabbage was the first one from the garden, yay! The kids like it raw, so I just whacked some chunks off it and put it on their plates.

I made the cookies mostly for A., who took one kid on a fishing and camping trip with a friend. I made chocolate chip/peanut butter cookies for them, so they'd have some sort of snack on hand. Good for breakfast or whatever. The kids at home were pleased to have some, too.


Short version: Spanish dolma rice, leftovers, grape tomatoes

Long version: Only three kids were eating, because one was sick with a bad sore throat. I had enough of the dolmades filling left, but thought maybe three nights in a row might be a little much. So I switched it up a bit by cooking a bit more ground beef for it, adding salsa and taco spices to change the flavor, and finishing it up with grated cheddar cheese. Ta da! Spanish dolma rice.

A. had the last lamb steak and the leftover potatoes from their camping hobo pack of potatoes and hamburger patties.

The child with the sore throat had some egg salad and potatoes with cheese.

I had a salad, on which I used the last of the tzatziki sauce as a dressing. That works well.


Short version: Lamb roast, whipped potatoes, cucumbers, roasted asparagus and garlic, baked custard

Long version: This was a boned-out leg roast that I, well, roasted. Roasting actually works better with the bone in, but it cooks a lot faster without the bone and is much easier to carve. Trade-offs.

I prefer to mash potatoes with my handheld masher, but the child with the sore throat prefers them whipped with the mixer. So I did that for him. I had baked them in the oven while I was roasting the lamb, which enabled me to make a lot more potatoes without the space constraint of a pot to boil them in.

These were some seriously large potatoes, and they made a lot of whipped potatoes.

Meat thermometer for scale, I guess.

I also made the baked custard for the sick child, although of course everyone else had to have some, too.


Short version: Fish patties, leftover whipped potatoes, raw produce

Long version: One can of tuna, one can of salmon, everyone is happy. I decided on this last-minute after we got home in the afternoon from a trek to the dentist. I had thought I would get something at the grocery store for a quick dinner, but we got home earlier than I thought.

Refrigerator check:

Definitely a post-grocery-store refrigerator.

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

* I didn't know if it was dolmas or dolmades, so I looked it up. It appears that dolmades is the plural version of dolmas in Greek, so there you go.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Book Talk: New Authors, Yay!

Summer is upon us, and that means that my children and I need books. Reading is a large part of our entertainment, and we have a lot more time for it now.

I think I've mentioned this before, but the nearest libraries to us are 90 miles one way. We go to different cities for different things, so we can't reliably check out and return books to the same one on our infrequent errand runs. And it's usually A. who does those errand runs, so the rest of us wouldn't have a chance to get to the library anyway.

Our only local options are the once-a-month bookmobile and a books by mail program. Neither of these have a great selection of books. At least, not that we want to read.

So, I buy books. Not the cheapest option, even buying used, but thems the breaks.

This is why when I find an author that we like, I buy multiple books by that author. It's a nice feeling to buy a book knowing we're going to like it, rather than just crossing my fingers.

Recently, I have found two authors we like. This is exciting. And I'm going to share them with you. Of course.

There they are.

Okay, I must admit that the Katherine Center books are really just for me. Not that no one else is allowed to read them, but they are most definitely books written for women.

Katherine Center was recommended on a book-related blog I read, and so I looked up her books. As I always do, I read the sample on the Amazon listing to see what the writing was like. Ninety percent of the time, that sample is enough for me to know if it's not worth my time.

This was. I read it in one day. They are somewhat fluffy books, but not stupid. I suppose I like my story lines to be relatively unchallenging, but the writing to be at least somewhat intelligent. Also, I like happy endings.

These books check those boxes for me. There's a few curse words, but nothing too inappropriate otherwise, and she is very good at creating real, sympathetic characters. All of the main characters have some pretty major challenges, but nothing that makes me so sad I can't read them. I have that problem with some other books. If it's too heavy, I just can't.

I've read two of her books so far and bought, um, five more.

It's a long summer, okay?

Next! Howard Frank Mosher. I do not remember how I stumbled upon this author, but I originally bought one of his books for the older boys. The author grew up in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom--which is on the Canadian border, like we used to be--and as far as I can tell sets his books exclusively there. They are essentially character sketches of the sort of people who live in that remote place, as well as an ode to a vanished way of life.

Although I bought the first book for the boys, I read it, too. All of us liked it so much I bought a few more. They are funny, and touching, and very, very real. They remind me a lot of Richard Russo, who writes novels about small-town upstate New York and pretty much nails the people.

This is rarer than you might think, as most authors seem to be urban and that is reflected in their books.

So those are my two most recent discoveries and recommendations.

Tell me: What are you reading right now? Anything you'd recommend?

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Snapshots: An Unfortunate Name

A. decided to buy some bread at the store so I wouldn't have to bake all the bread the locusts are consuming now that they're home all the time. It was a very kind thought, and three out of the four children have been enjoying the novelty of bread that's already been sliced*. The name of the bread, however . . .


I had to look this up to see how this unfortunate name ended up associated with bread. I thought maybe it was something where the name predated the meaning of the word. In fact, the company is based in Mexico. So I guess it just doesn't translate well across cultures.

It has provided substantial amusement for those of us who know what the word means in America, however.

Let's see what else I have . . .

A funny radish.

This week's roadside-flower arrangement.

And Adventure Van pulling a trailer-load of sheep to the auction.

A. sold all five of the lambs born early this year, plus two yearlings born last year. That leaves us with two ram lambs that were born just about a month ago--they'll go in the freezer this fall--the ram, and seven ewes. This substantial reduction to the flock will make it much easier to manage them. We didn't have enough pasture for that many sheep, and prices are pretty high right now, so A. got enough to pay for quite a bit of hay.

There you have it! My life, snapshotted.

* The one who isn't enjoying it thinks store bread is gross and refuses to eat any bread but mine. I must admit to being secretly gratified about this.