• the quotidian (1.30.17)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace



    My new favorite salad base: power greens.

    Now that’s a grilled cheese.
    Piling up: the daily starter leftovers.

    Another quadruple batch of this soup.

    Just for kicks: hot pepper in the caramel.

    I love breakfast.
    Kitchen geometrics.

    She passed!

    Whupped: after a 12-hour EMT shift
    (that included a grueling round of CPR)
    sandwiched between two days of construction work,
    and then the start of a cold.
    Self-expression.

    Naughty girls, all three of them.

    He wanted to be closer to us.

    Attending a private show (!) of their new (!!) music: The Steel Wheels (!!!).

    This same time, years previous: crispy pan pizzas, sour cream and berry baked oatmeal, about a picture, swimming in the sunshine, mornings, the quotidian (1.30.12), Gretchen’s green chili, shoofly cake, and Nana’s anise biscotti.

  • omeletty egg bake

    Instead of the traditional made-to-order omelets at our family gathering in PA, my aunt made a bunch of egg casseroles for Sunday’s big brunch. One was bread based (this one) and the other wasn’t. When I asked about the difference, my aunt explained that the not bread-based one was more like an omelet, but in casserole form. Lots of meat, eggs, cheese, and veggies, straight-up.

    Back home, I bought the ingredients I didn’t have, the cottage cheese and mushrooms (that I minced fine and my mushroom-hating husband never even knew they were there). The other stuff—the eggs, cheese, green peppers, and sausage—I already had on hand.

    I assembled everything one Sunday afternoon and then baked it, along with a pan of hash browns and a batch of sky-high biscuits with homemade lard for a kick-your-butt-into-high-gear Monday morning breakfast.

    My husband was like, “What has gotten into you?” and Melissa was like, “Can I have this on my birthday?”

    Omeletty Egg Bake
    Adapted from my aunt and she, in turn, got the recipe from All Recipes.

    1 pound loose sausage
    2 onions, chopped
    2 sweet peppers (1 green and 1 red, if possible), chopped
    ½ pound mushrooms, sliced
    ½ pound monterey jack cheese, grated
    4 tablespoons butter, melted
    10 eggs, beaten
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon black pepper
    2 cups cottage cheese

    Brown the sausage. Caramelize the onions in a bit of bacon grease, or butter, and sprinkle with salt. Saute the peppers. Lightly saute the mushrooms in a little butter.

    In a large bowl, combine the sausage, onions, peppers, mushroom, and monterey jack cheese and then transfer to a 9×13 pan. Drizzle the melted butter over top. Combine the eggs, salt, black pepper, and cottage cheese and pour over the meat.

    Bake the casserole (or cover and refrigerate until ready to bake) at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the middle is set. Serve hot.

    If there are leftovers, count your lucky stars.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.25.16), through my lens: a wedding, the quotidian (1.26.15), keep everlastingly at it, hobo beans, the quotidian (1.27.14), what you can do, first day of classes, and then we moved into a barn, five things, and corn tortillas.

  • the quotidian (1.23.17)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace



    Busy and productive: just how I like it.

    A gift: honeysuckle—HONEYSUCKLE—jelly.
    Company prep: candles, cookies, and and a task for when I’m running my mouth.

    Keeping everlastingly at it: crackers, bread, and granola.

    Homemade peanut butter: the boy got a bee in his bonnet and just had to make some.

    Writing group: the remains.

    Because tossing them on the floor is easier.
    She teaches (and has openings!).
    Cat cube.

    This same time, years previous: blizzard of 2016, lazy stuffed cabbage rolls, the quotidian (1.20.14), world’s best pancakes, rocks in my granola, and other tales, the quotidian (1.23.12), chuck roast braised in red wine, moving forward, peanut noodles, on thank-you notes, pink cupcakes, in no particular order, movie night, on not wanting, and capturing the moment.

  • women’s march on washington

    Never, ever, ever have I been around so many people. The sheer volume was staggering. From the moment we stepped away from the bus, we were surrounded. Even though I knew lots of friends attending the march, I didn’t see a familiar face—aside from those in our group of seven—the entire day.

    When we left the stadium lot where the bus dropped us—two miles from the start of the march—the sidewalks were already full. We were immediately swept up in the ever-swelling stream of bodies that eventually, and rather suddenly, ground to a halt in a roiling sea of pink.

    By the time we arrived, the rally had started. (We had made a bathroom stop which involved a loooong line.) Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, the crush of bodies carried us to a dead-end spot behind the stage. It took us a good long while to work our way around to the right side and then we couldn’t even get close enough to hear the speeches, let alone see anything.

    So we kept moving, inching our way down a parallel (and full) street, block after block, trying to find an entry point. Finally we found a spot where we could hear (but not see any of the big screens), and for the next couple hours we listened to speakers Michael Moore, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johannson, Van Jones, 6-year-old Sophia Cruz, etc.

    After the pain of standing became too much (standing still hurts), we started working our way through the crowd, trying to get to the place the march would be. Passing the big screens, we’d catch glimpses of speakers, Angela Davis, Madonna, Maxwell.

    We shuffled along like a pack of emperor penguins, each person with her hand hooked into the hood of the woman in front of her. Sometimes the press was so great that we moved only a fraction of an inch with each step, and sometimes we couldn’t even take steps. I’d look around me, at the thousands of people hemming me in on all sides and do my best not to think about stampedes and mass shootings and trucks driving into crowds. My fretful husband had begged us to be safe. Don’t worry, hon, I’d told him. I’ll stay at the edge of the crowd. That I thought there’d be such a thing as an edge—ha!

    An hour and a half after the march was scheduled to start, it finally got underway. The few times the crowd thinned out enough that we could actually stride (because mostly we did the penguin shuffle), it felt so, so good. There were chants of all sorts, but my favorite was the random group yell. From several blocks away, we’d hear the roar begin. We’d wait, listening as it moved closer and closer, and then, as it washed over us, we’d throw back our heads and join in the collective, wordless howl of pent-up rage and hope, frustration and joy. Group therapy at its finest.

    Things we saw:
    *A hippie drum circle.
    *Mountains of hay, for the police horses, running the length of a block. We only ever saw three horse, though. 

    *Almost no police.
    *Signs, sign, and more signs. SO MUCH CREATIVITY.
    *Random hell-and-damnation preachers with their black-and-white signs sporting words like “whoredom” surrounded by dancing protestors chanting “Love, love, love!”
    *ZERO VIOLENCE.
    *An enormous model of the world creeping down the street.
    *People on stop-light posts, on walls, in trees, on ledges…
    *(Few and far between) porta-potty cities.

    The march over, we started the long walk from the White House to our bus. Along the way we passed churches with their doors open, a woman standing outside her door with a pitcher of water ready to refill our bottles, a large sign on fence proclaiming in masking-tape letters THANK YOU.

    I arrived back at the bus dehydrated, hungry, and hurting all over. I inhaled my ham-and-mustard sandwich, carrots, figs and dates, cheese and crackers, and chocolate and then promptly fell sound asleep, waking only when the bus trundled into town.

    At home—glorious home with TWO bathrooms and NO lines—I chugged water and chattered nonstop. My husband filled us in on the media reports (they said they had called off the march?!), and we skimmed through my hundreds of photos.

    What a day. What an inspiring, entertaining, grueling, exhilarating, and profoundly moving day.

    I am so glad I went.

    This same time, years previous: lemon cream cake, and so it begins, the quotidian (1.19.15), the good and the bad, and multigrain bread.

  • homemade grainy mustard

    First lard, now mustard. I’m on a roll!

    When one of my friends told me she made her own mustard, I was intrigued. While visiting her over Christmas, I spied a jar of the stuff on the counter. I took a big whiff: what vinegary, hot goodness! We ate that mustard at our meal, dolloped atop our breakfast ham, and once we were back home, I emailed her for the recipe.

    When I finally got around to making the mustard myself, I misread the recipe. Instead of one cup seeds to three cups water, I did three cups seeds to three cups water. A couple hours later when I opened the fridge to show off my bowl of soaking seeds to my mother, I was surprised to see all the water had been absorbed, oops. I transferred everything to a gallon jar and added another six cups of water. It looked like I’d be making mustard for the masses!

    The next morning I drained the seeds and, working in batches, blended them in the food processor along with the vinegar and salt—MUSTARD!

    It’s grainy and hot, perfect in sandwiches with thick slices of ham, or as a dip for hard pretzels. I can’t wait to try it in honey-baked chicken, vinaigrettes, and potato salad. (I’ve been giving away pint jars of mustard right and left. I still have another pint or two to share. Anyone want some?)

    Homemade Grainy Mustard
    As instructed by my friend Rebecca.

    Rebecca says any vinegar will do; I used apple cider.

    As I was writing up this recipe, I did a little research. Sounds like you can put just about anything in homemade mustard: white wine, beer, maple syrup, turmeric, white sugar, cayenne, horseradish. Also, I imagine you could, just for the heck of it, throw in brown mustard seed, or maybe some black mustard. Fun, fun!

    1 cup mustard seed
    3 cups water
    5 teaspoons salt
    1 cup vinegar

    In the evening, put the seeds in a bowl, cover with water, and soak overnight. My friend leaves them out on the counter, but she said that one hot summer “the seeds sprouted and produced a hotter-than-hell mustard with odd horseradish overtones.” I put mine in the fridge, just to be on the safe side.

    In the morning, drain the seeds. They will be slightly slimy and stinky. Put the seeds in the food processor, add the vinegar and salt, and start blending. At first the mixture will be runny, but keep whirling. After a minute or so, it will thicken up nicely. Transfer the mustard to a quart jar and store in the fridge.

    This same time, years previous: cream cheese dip, cheesy polenta with sauteed greens, and snapshots and captions.

  • all the way under

    When we were up at my aunt’s house last Sunday, my older son—a.k.a. The Boy Who Put The Car On The Porch—got it into his head that he wanted to jump into the creek.

    Never mind that the thermometer hovered right around 30 degrees (if that).

    Never mind that the creek was covered in a sheet of ice.

    Never mind that he didn’t have his swimming trunks along.

    Never mind that there was snow on the ground.

    Never mind that it was cold.

    HAVE I MENTIONED THAT IT WAS COLD???

    While he changed into a pair of swimming trunks he had begged from a cousin, a bunch of the younger kids gathered at the creek to await the show.

    One cousin set about breaking a hole in the ice with an ax.

    When that went nowhere, a few of the guys helpfully chucked large rocks at the ice. At first the rocks just smacked into the ice and stuck.

    But eventually the ice weakened and a hole formed.

    IT WAS TIME.

    My son slippy-slopped his way across the ice towards the hole.

    He crouched.

    He lowered his feet in and gasped loudly.

    And then plunged in, all the way under.

    As he heaved himself out of the water, we cheered and hollered, gleeful and toasty warm in our winter coats.

    He didn’t waste one minute scrambling onto the bank and making a beeline up the hill to the house.

    My older daughter took a video of the whole thing. On it you can hear me bellowing, “Go under! ALL THE WAY UNDER” because I am the sort of mother who believes if you are going to be stupid, you might as well go all out.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.18.16), just do it, day one, quick fruit cobbler, snapshots, Julia’s chocolate almond cake, and five-minute bread.

  • the quotidian (1.16.17)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace



    To fight the cold that is kicking. my. butt.

    Not exactly traditional quetzal colors.

    An exercise in time management.

    The curse of the youngest: no one to play with.

    Rocking the solo dance party.

    Just for anyhow.

    Packing the joint: Sunday night popcorn.
    (Alternate caption: mid-snick. See it?)
    Early morning moon-set. 

    This same time, years previous: on kindness, through the kitchen window, roll and twist, GUATEMALA!!!, crumbs, vanilla cream cheese braids, the quotidian (1.16.12), rum raisin shortbread, cranberry relish, the bet, and inner voices.

  • homemade lard

    This post is for my readers—all three of them, probably—who have a sack of pig fat sitting in their freezers waiting to be turned into lard. Judging from the blank stares I get when I mention lard-making, most people do not dabble in pig fat. Most people, it seems, would rather go through life pretending that pig fat does not even exist.

    But then there is me.

    I am celebrating because I have crossed from ordinary lard consumer to lard maker. I have chopped pig fat—from our very own pigs that we raised on our very own land—with my very own bare hands and then cooked it down in my very own oven till it turned into liquid fat/gold, I am the Little Red Hen, hear me cluck!

    Seriously, though: how many of you have a stockpile of fat waiting to become lard? Two of you? Five? This is not a rhetorical question! It is a test to see just how tiny my little island is—Helloooo! Can anyone hear meeeeee?

    Sigh.

    Anyway. On the off-chance there’s another person stashing fat (in the freezer, not the body since I know I’m not alone there) and not sure how to get it into lard, I am here to tell you everything.

    Actually, it’s really not that exciting. Just pop the fat in an oven and cook slow and low until you have lard. The main trick (if you can even call it that) is to keep the fat at low-enough temps so it never boils because boiling imparts a bad flavor and color, or so I’ve been told.

    so glorious it glows

    I cooked my pig fat for a day and a half, got 4½ pints, and then called it quits. The fat cubes were still pretty big so maybe I could’ve gone longer? But that last half-pint of lard was no longer pure white, and I was tired of running the oven. The animals thought the scraps were the best snack ever. (I was afraid the smell of the rendering would be overpoweringly disgusting, but as long as the oven door stayed shut, it was actually quite mild. I even had a friend pop in and not notice the smell at all.)

    from left to right: the first to last “pourings”

    What am I using the lard for, you ask? Oh, silly you! The options are endless. I’ve already made a batch of sky-high biscuits to celebrate (and to go with this carrot soup), and I mixed some into the pork filling for tonight’s empanadas. In the next few weeks I’ll be using lard in everything, from pastry crusts to scrambled eggs to refried beans to soup. Trust me: a stockpile of fresh, homemade lard is not a hardship.

    Homemade Lard

    Chop pork fat into little cubes (tip: fat is easier to cut if partially frozen) and tumble them into a glass 9×13 pan (or pans, if you have a lot of fat). Bake, uncovered, at 150 to 190 degrees.

    After about six to eight hours, liquid (the lard!) will start puddling in the bottom of the pan. When there is enough to make it worth your while, pour it off, through a fine-mesh strainer (or cheese cloth), into a bowl. While the lard is still hot, pour it into jars. Lid the jars (the heat from the lard will make them seal) and let cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator for long-term storage.

    Return the pans of fat to the oven and bake for another four to six hours. Repeat the process (pouring off the liquid and baking) until the fat ceases to relinquish more lard.

    For more lard-making pointers, go here and here and here.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.11.16), the quotidian (1.12.15), sticky toffee pudding, spinach lemon orzo soup, eyeballs and teeth, creamy blue cheese pasta with spinach and walnuts, and spots of pretty.

  • the quotidian (1.9.17)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace



    A fun-to-make crowd-pleaser.

    One of my children has now forfeited her raisin cookie-eating rights. 
    Dismantling Christmas.
    A great reading (and ankle-grabbing) spot.
    Hitting the slopes!

    Twenty-five degrees, a t-shirt, and a half-mile walk in barefeet: I think she might be hotblooded.

    We went to Pennyslvania.

    And then we came home. 

    This same time, years previous: how we kicked off 2016, our little dustbunnies, what it means, sourdough crackers, date nut bread, one year and one day ago, between two worlds, buckwheat apple pancakes, so worth it, the quotidian (1.9.12), salted dulce de leche ice cream with candied peanuts, and hog butchering.

  • marching

    On Wednesday I booked my spot on the bus for the Women’s March on Washington. I am so excited!

    For awhile, I was on the fence about going—the expense, the bother—but then a friend (thank you, Friend!) offered to pay my bus fare which forced me, and gave me the freedom, to seriously consider making the trip.

    I had a couple hang-ups. First, what was the march’s purpose? The whole thing confused me. Was it anti-Trump? Pro-women? In support of all human rights? And second, marches (and political demonstrations in general) make me skeptical. Jabbing signs heavenwards, yelling ourselves hoarse, spending all that time and money just to… what? Make us feel good about ourselves? Wouldn’t it be more effective to spend all those thousands on, I don’t know… Medical research? Humanitarian aid? Education grants?

    On the other hand, maybe the march would be good, less of a self-indulgence and more of a self-discipline. For the last few months, I’ve been plagued with a lurking panic and flashes of flat-out fear that, as we slipped into 2017, have only intensified. Now whenever I pause to actually consider things, my body tenses. It might be easier to stay home, but maybe I needed to step out and move.

    I read up on the march, trying to understand the purpose. It’s still not completely clear to me, and the origins were rather murky, but best I can tell, the organizers were planning this march before the election because of all the anti-human rights rhetoric bubbling to the surface. Then the election happened, the results drove home the point (We’ve got problems, peoplealways have and always will), and the march got scheduled. Human rights for all, now that I can get behind.

    So yeah, I’m going to this march for me. I want to feel better, more hopeful and less fearful. In a lot of ways, the march reminds me of a church service: a motley group of people pressing the pause button on the hustle-rush of the daily grind in order to gather for a few short hours to bolster and support one another and be encouraged. Looked at that way, the march does have merit. It might not be productive in the classic Protestant work ethic sense, but choosing to be with people is never a waste.

    So January 21, I’ll plant myself in the middle of thousands of strangers and together we’ll say, World, here we are. It will be a much-needed—for me, for the world, for whoever/whatever does it even really matter?—jolt of (bracingly cold) fresh air. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

    If nothing else, it’s sure to be entertaining.

    Will I see you there???

    This same time, years previous: how to make a fireball, high on the hog, breaking the fruitcake barrier, the quotidian (1.6.14), headless chickens, of an evening, candied peanuts, and sweet and spicy popcorn.