(Also words that rhyme w/ bundt cake that I wish I had worked into the title somehow: pepper steak, milk snake, earthquake, daybreak and disc break.)Continue reading “Keepsake Bundt Cake Uptake Outbreak”
The Garden and Outside Stuff in the Heat
It’s so hot.
I know I’ve mentioned that in all recent posts, but oh my God it’s so hot right now. We haven’t had rain in two months, the soil in the garden needs to be MUCH more improved if it’s going to be the single main shelter for all these plants through such tough conditions again next year, and I personally feel like I’m sweating way more than I ever have before- and I was always a pretty sweaty girl.Continue reading “The Garden and Outside Stuff in the Heat”
Balsamic Vinaigrette and Dressed Greens Recipes
I can’t remember the last time I bought salad dressing. Due to a 3/4 sized fridge (Only kind that fit in our former garden home and that I’m super stubborn about for some reason since I insist there is plenty of space in it to feed a family of five and I love it so with it’s bottom freezer…) I resent any condiment that takes up the limited door space due to a very simple reason: beer bottles only fits on the doors. I prefer beer to pre-packaged salad dressing. It’s a pretty damn easy equation, honestly.
Also, this dressing is the damn easiest thing I make and yet it’s one of my favorite. Ratios below are a standard ratio from those packages of salad dressings, but these days I usually just eyeball a smaller amount. But since I don’t have measurements on that… here ya go.
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. honey or tiny pinch of sugar
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
generous salt and pepper to taste
I make this in a canning jar to make shaking it easy. Here’s the order to make blending nice and easy: Oil first… then everything else. The only one you want to really watch out for is if you put the honey in first it can get stuck on the bottom of the jar and not incorporate.
Please note- if you make a big batch and put it in the fridge overnight (which you’d need to do… because of the fresh garlic if you’re storing it) the olive oil will set up as a quasi solid and it’ll need to warm up on the counter and shake it up again before the next use. Due to said garlic it will continue to get a bit more “fresh garlic spicy” as time goes by… so I usually only make enough for a couple of days.
How do you use it? As a marinade, drizzled over rice and chicken, over salads… or over dressed greens. What are dressed greens, you say? LET ME TELL YOU!
OH MY GOD IS THIS THE BEST SALAD! Here’s how it goes: bowl (I wrote bowel first because of course I did) full of spring greens mix, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette, and then tossed with your hands. Nothing else in it and it’s a god damn revelation is what it is! Our girls devour it, there is never any left over, and there is no slicing or dicing of other or any ingredients or any nonsense! It feels quasi middle eastern or southern European, and God please just try it. Two things- don’t mix ahead of time because it gets soggy and don’t save it- because it gets soggy.
It’s Le Hot
It’s BLAZINGLY hot around this place these days, so no new plantings are happening. No weeding is getting done. The watering is done at night, and mostly by sprinkler. And the bermuda grass is creeping in as slowly and methodically as fascism in 2018 America.
The only thing that’s not done begrudgingly is TOMATO HARVESTING!
As for the plants… The cherry tomatoes are so huge- Sungold has to be 9′ tall and Sweet 100 has to be 6 and a half. They have very different growth habits. Sungold is more abundant, but also easier to harvest since it’s an airier and more open plant. The Sweet 100 is more dense, so much more difficult to harvest as it tends to fruit in the middle of the plant as opposed to on the perimeter like the Sungold. Sweet 100 fruit are also smaller is size, but more tart, which I prefer. The Sungold is awesome though, and I will definitely buy one again next year just to keep up with the volume I want on the cherries.
As for the others, even the shorter tomatoes had to get 6′ T-posts put in- they pulled their cages over with the weight of all the fruit they’re setting. Yet another first from this year’s crop…
Ignore the background… that’s the old deck railing that needs to be hauled off. But in the foreground is a 4′ Mexican Olive tree, that all of the sudden catapulted itself out of the bronze fennel.
In other news, I’m really trying to cut our food budget. I’ve taken over as the primary cook in the household, which is great. But it also means I indulge in WAY too many trips to the store, where it seems I invariably drop $70 a trip- on top of the pushing $200 weekly trip. And we can all agree that’s insane, And it is especially too much since I want to trade in the Honda for a Subaru Ascent here in, like 2 weeks. So to afford the payment difference, I need to shave off about $200 from my personal and food spending. Which, eh, no problem. I could do with less of my “money grows on trees, devil may care attitude” anyway. So let me show you one of my latest moves that direction: FREE MEALS.
Okay, not actually free in the soup kitchen or community food pantry way or anything. God that’d be a dick move to get charity because I don’t want to cut into my TJ Maxx budget but still want to afford a brand new car, wouldn’t it? No, to me free meals are ones that I can make with only what we have on hand and a much more hearty reuse of leftovers. No trip to store or any purchases besides beer for the meal.
So on Wednesday I made a pork loin. We cut it into medallions, pounded them a bit, breaded them and then I made a cheater scaloppine sauce (didn’t have asparagus so I subbed red bell pepper. I do what I want) to serve with it. WAY too much sauce and a ton of the pork was left over. The middle child ate dinner with a friend, but even so it was a big pork loin. Which still only cost $8 so already a pretty budget meal.
Thursday I cooked some pasta, thickened and stretched the sauce from the scaloppine with some flour and chicken broth and added some cooked Italian sausage from earlier in the week- boom. FREE MEAL. And it was good.
Friday we had barbecued chicken thighs and veggie skewers. Plenty of leftovers, chicken thighs cost $7 for the pack.
Saturday day we had chicken tacos with leftover thighs from night before. FREE MEAL.
Saturday evening I cooked up a box of dirty rice I had on hand (Zatarains mix… it almost pains me to buy something boxed or branded these days but it’s exactly that kinda snobbishness that lost the Dems this last election). To it I added finely chopped up left over pork loin and the rest of the smokey veggies from Friday night. I did make a garlic yogurt sauce to go on top and I put minced parsley on literally everything, so it went on this too to dress it up. (crush some garlic in some yogurt and refrigerate for an hour. boom. Garlic yogurt sauce) FREE F-ING MEAL.
And then today for lunch I made up a quick asian soup broth (box of chicken broth (organic. It’s my need to say so that lost the Dems that last election), mirin, miso paste, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil- dash of this and that, I have no measurements here- along with some minced garlic and ginger. Then I added frozen spinach, some dried asian mushrooms, noddles and sliced in some of the pork loin. Topped it with cilantro and lime. FREE Mother F-ing MEAL!
And I realize, this isn’t breaking new ground here- reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle… but I’m learning. And that’s obnoxious, don’t I know it. But I’m strolling my merry way towards being more fiscally responsible on food so I can be less so on the car… so yay for coastal elites and being out of touch with the heartland, I guess?
Vote Democratic 2018 folks.
- I used to babysit regularly for a family that lived in a haunted house. The TV used to flick on and off, it always felt like you were being watched, and I had a kid run behind me laughing while I was doing dishes once… turned around- nothing. Went to check on the kids I was babysitting… all three in bed and sound asleep. And I mean SOUND asleep- they weren’t pulling one over on the babysitter.
- Lesson: atheism doesn’t negate a belief in ghosts.
- One time in high school I started my period and knew, I mean KNEW, that I didn’t have any supplies… but I frantically rummaged through my backpack anyway. AND OH MY GOD I FOUND A TAMPON I WAS SAVED! I then immediately dropped it in the toilet.
- Lesson: Sometimes having something and losing it is exactly like never having it at all.
- I was running into the grocery store one time in the rain and didn’t realize how deep a puddle was and SWOOOSH, kicked up a huge plume of water (one leg on the backswing) and sunk halfway up my calf in the puddle. A guy running the other direction DIED laughing to see it. (I mean died- stopped, doubled over, grabbing his stomach, the whole bit.) He called out an apology as I ran past him, but I yelled back that if it had to happen I was glad that someone saw it at least.
- Lesson: With the right mindset the phrase “As long as somebody laughed” will get you through a hell of a lot in this world.
- Lice. (Shudder)
- Lesson: Even if you think you’re so busy you don’t have any time to breath- somehow you’ll find 2 hours a night for weeks on end if you’re motivated.
- Steamed King Crab Legs (see here) is the hands down easiest dinner anyone could ever cook. Lentil Soup is the least expensive meal that will feed you for the week for just a few bucks.
- Lesson: you can have fast… or you can have cheap… but you ain’t getting both.
- So this one time… I got pregnant? When I had my tubes tied? (see here) And we proceeded to freak the fuck out for months and months and months and now we all love that child like it’s going out of style.
- Lesson: Aethism doesn’t negate an in depth understanding of the phrase “Man proposes, God disposes.”
- I got up to speak as a sophomore in high school to defend Block Scheduling because I believed in it SO much- I KNEW it was preparing me for the college experience and letting me learn much more in depth. (Longer classes, only 4 a day instead of 7 for the first half of the year with another set of 4 classes for the 2nd half of the year.) I loved that schedule… until the way my math classes synced up and I’d had an entire year between Algebra I and Algebra II.
- Lesson: Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true.
A Vow of Cake
We had our middle daughter’s 8th birthday party yesterday at noon. And so when 10:17am rolled around and my husband and I were in bed and instead of getting up he pulled the covers over his head I was so, so proud of him. And I then enthusiastically joined him under the covers. It’s like a fort of delayed obligations… I recommend it. (Yes we still have a baby around. We got up at 6:30am with her and then crawled back in bed at 9:30am when she went down for a nap.)
Now, the house had been cleaned, food bought, and the cake baked the night before- we’re not total monsters over here. But what were the first 2 things I did upon finally getting up and getting ready at 10:30am? Winged eyeliner (HEY I’VE NEVER TRIED THIS BEFORE SURE SEEMS LIKE A GOOD TIME FOR IT) and painting my toenails. THIS is what happens when I don’t make a list, for god’s sake.
We got everything done by 11:54am though, so it all worked out.
And I think we can all agree that cake is the worst. Not mine, I make decent cake- I just mean in general. Icing is gross. And even the best cake is just nuthin’ special. I don’t tie up a lot of pride in my baking- but I made a promise, many many years ago that I would make every one of my children’s birthday cakes. And they get to pick whatever kind of cake they want. Shark cake? plastic sharks on top. Giraffe cake? Plastic giraffes on top. Dolphin cake? You see where I’m going with this, I think. And I have made each and every one and did it with the hand mixer I bought at a Big Lots at 18 before I left for college and that has somehow made it through about a MILLION moves and that I actually don’t think I used, ever, until I started making my kid’s birthday cakes.
It’s a weird promise to have made, and I made it only to myself- but it absolutely stands in as a symbol of the mom I want to be. It stands in as a succinct version of all of this- rolled up in my head.
- I promise to be the mom that can make you dinner.
- and make you laugh and to also make sure your sense of humor is top tier.
- to mend your clothes and sew on buttons and who can make curtains if I have to and gives you a clean house to live in.
- I promise to call you outside to see possums and hawks and birds and snakes. And point out the biggest earthworm I’ve ever seen in my life holy hell that thing is HUGE!
- I promise to impart upon you a concept of self that is more than to be decorative.
- But also to let you see that being a feminist badass doesn’t mean having to deny one iota of the nurturing that goes into home cooked dinners or mending or you know. Cake baking.
- I promise to give you a chore each and every time you say “I’m bored” and that you’ll get to a point where you’ll open your eyes wide in horror after you say it and say “NEVERMIND, NEVERMIND!” and run off to your room to do something creative.
- I promise to make you play on at least one team in your life.
- But I also promise to not overbook you because free time is important to kids, and also your father and I like sleeping in on Saturdays.
- I promise you’ll love reading.
- And hell no you can’t get a phone!
- And I promise to sing you a song at night as often as I can and you know what? You’re 10 and 8. I really should just do it EVERY night still, because how much longer will you even let me? But the baby still gets the Silent Night treatment every night.
- I promise to have National Geographic in the bathroom and that it’s totally cool if you drop them in the bath, I’m just glad you’re reading them. (hasn’t happened yet, but they’re in there for y’all. Ready for whenever you pick one up.)
- And while I’ll bake your birthday cake, I promise to never get tied up in the Pinterest-y competition between moms and do all the stupid other crap that isn’t for the kid who’s birthday it is, but to show off for the other moms. I’m looking at you, mom who prints labels saying “Caitlin’s Birthday!” for the goddamn water bottles.
- Also? No goodie bags, ever. Though we did give out whoopee cushions that one memorable time. That was awesome.
And so, I will continue to make birthday cake, every year, three times a year and neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night will stay this faithful courier from the swift completion of her appointed rounds.
And the only other promise I’ve made myself that I have never ever once wavered on? No more tequila. Super committed to both. Make kids’ birthday cakes and no more tequila.
Words to live by.
The Best Italian Wedding Soup Recipe Ever
You know, the only soup I’ve ever had at a wedding has been Menudo, but I dig the concept. And I forget exactly where I first read about Italian Wedding Soup, but I do remember why it piqued my interest. The article I was reading was written by some mother who mentioned this soup was her daughter’s favorite and the prepackaged brand she bought was discontinued and she didn’t know what she was going to do. DIDN’T KNOW WHAT SHE WAS GOING TO DO. Sheesh. That reminds me of stories about people getting trapped on escalators because they stop moving or people who are locked out of their car because their key fob batteries died. Are we that helpless, humanity? Make the soup yourself, that’s what you’re going to do.
The mix of beef and chicken broth adds depth to the soup and means you’re getting beef, pork, and chicken in this meal. Making it like a Turduckin… in no way whatsoever. And maybe double the meatballs and freeze them after you brown them- that’d be a nice jump on the next batch of soup or you could finish cooking them and toss them in pasta for a quickie meal down the road. Also? Some people drizzle beaten egg in this for egg streamers like in Egg Drop Soup. I like my eggs in birthday cake, so I don’t do that.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Refrigerate meatballs for 1 hour prior to cooking
Cooking Tine: 45 minutes
Not exact science here- mix ratios till the meatballs stick together. For this soup the smaller you can get the meatballs the better; I aim for large blueberry sized, myself but usually end up at gumball sized.
1.5 lbs. ground pork
2 tbsp. milk
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
½ tsp. salt
Pepper to taste (around 1/3 tsp.)
¼ finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
2 cups thinly sliced kale
1 cup cooked Israeli couscous (orzo or other small pasta as a sub)
2/3 cup finely chopped carrot
Garnish with grated Parmesan
Mix ground pork, egg, milk, grated Parmesan, onion, garlic, salt and pepper together well in a large bowl until evenly mixed. Form into small meatballs, place on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for an hour. (This keeps them from falling apart when you brown them)
Heat olive oil over medium high heat in large pot. Add meatballs in batches (don’t crowd the pot or else they steam and don’t brown) turning regularly to brown all sides. Remove to a clean bowl or platter. Or plate. Just not the contaminated with raw pork bowl you used earlier is what I’m saying. Once all meatballs are browned and removed from pot add chopped carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add broth, scraping the bottom to loosen the browned bits (they add mucho flavor) and add kale. Simmer for 30 minutes
In a separate pot cook the Israeli couscous or small pasta. Set aside (Yes. I know. Israeli couscous in Italian soup? That’s the Diaspora for you.) Tradition calls for a small, round pasta I’ve never ever found in stores anywhere, but Israeli couscous looks awfully similar to my eye, and was conveniently in my pantry already. Any small pasta will do though, orzo, stars, etc. Just cook it separately or it will suck up too much of the broth as it cooks. Also store it separately or it’ll get mushy and ruin any leftovers.
For the last 15 minutes of cooking add the browned meatballs back to the soup and continue to simmer.
Fluff the Israeli couscous or drain the pasta then add desired amount to individual bowls. Ladle in soup and top with more grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!