Let’s Chat About Food For Just A Second

Hello Friends!
Yours truly is ill, and it’s been a whole struggle to do much of anything this week. I did get some breaks in the weather to be able to get a couple things done outside, and Ro especially is ready to work, but I was less so.
So, since I am entirely too gross to take any cool pictures or have any super cool stories, I thought I’d share the one thing that has been very prominent this week…. The lazy girl dinners that have been a staple since I have the patience of a…a… well, Watson to be honest. I am a big fan of easy dinners, that either don’t take a lot of time, or that I can easily walk away from mid cook if I need to. Rice bowls fit that so so so well. So, different vibe this week, but I doubted you wanted several paragraphs of me lamenting that fact that my nose is functionally useless and why, oh why, are cold meds so expensive?! Sheesh!!
Let me remind you, this is not a food blog, what you see below might be offensive to true foodies. I subscribe to the “If it’s tasty, won’t kill me any faster than something else, and it creates decent leftovers, it’s getting added to the meal plan” realm of things. Also, I literally measure nothing, and I do not know the correct names for anything, so I apologize in advance. But these are Manders proof, which means they are literally anyone else proof too, promise.
They are pretty straighforward because I have been learning to cook for only the last couple years, when I moved home to take care of everyone and realized I lived far enough out that there’s no such thing as UberEats, GrubHub, or PostMates, I can’t even get pizza delivery out here. I miss late night pizza delivery. Anyway.

Meal Concept: Rice Bowls

So, here’s the deal, I’ve converted my family to rice eaters. Nobody was nearly as into it as I was, but I can usually get away with a rice bowl or two a week now, they are so versatile, and rice is really easy if you have tools that work for you. You can really stack anything in a rice bowl too, they are magic if you need to use up leftovers, are running on a limited pantry, or just really don’t want to cook. I love them!

For the base to my rice bowls, I use my instant pot as a rice cooker, and in general I make garlic rosemary rice, however if you are going for a specific flavor profile you can easy flavor rice however you want. The trick for short grained rice is a 1-1 ratio of liquid to dry (cleaned) rice, sometimes you’ll find recipes with medium and long grain rice that give slightly different ratios, and a quick google search will be able to help you out. You can totally make stove top rice too, I can’t, I burn it every single time, but I’m told that works just as well for non-cooking-challenged humans. I throw in more rosemary than you think is necessary (I use dried because it’s easier for me to store at the moment, go a little easier on it if you are using fresh rosemary) and more minced garlic than is necessary as well. Crushed garlic or garlic powder works too, as well as pastes, but you may need to fiddle around until you get your balance of flavors where you are happy.
I never use water for rice, always stock or broth, it adds so much flavor. I tend to gravitate toward the lighter flavor of chicken stock, but beef and veggie work well too. Water just doesn’t bring any flavor to the table. I also add around a half a pat of butter to the mixture per cup of rice, it just helps with sticking to the pot, and I’m a county cook at heart, so ya know.
I use this basic rice for most variants of these bowls, and I usually make around six cups of rice, cooked, so I have leftovers. Rice is such a good base for many things. You can also throw leftovers in tacos or soups. Yummy! My two absolute favorite bowls are “I’m too lazy to actually make chicken carbonara” and “I really need to use these veggies”.

“I’m too lazy to actually make carbonara” is basically an excuse to add ham, bacon, and chicken into a smoky sauce. Also, I like one or two pot meals, and this requires the instant pot for rice and a saucepan. That’s it.
Because I am lazy, I am a big fan of canned chicken, but I’m super picky, and I am telling you Kirkland’s canned chicken is the best. It’s a little pricier but the quality is absolutely worth it. I make two cans for four people, but your mileage might vary. I’m not sponsored, I just really prefer their chicken. You’ll also need some cubed ham, if, like me, you tend to feed a lot of people, you may have a leftover whole ham to use up, but you can also buy pre-cubed ham. We usually have bacon bits about, because we really like breakfast in this house, and I always keep minced garlic around as well. You’ll need some chicken stock, cream of chicken condensed soup, black pitted olives (these are optional) and the following spices: smoked paprika, crushed onion, a little salt and pepper, and a little cayenne (again, optional). Spices are to taste, almost everything else is “one package of”… so one can of condensed soup, one package of deli ham, one can olives.
Here’s the best part! The instructions basically boil down to: throw it all in a pot over medium heat and make sure everything gets warm!
Realistically, you want to add your garlic before your chicken (careful not to burn your garlic though, no coming back from that one), and let those both start smelling yummy before adding the ham and bacon. Then mix the chicken stock (I add whatever didn’t get used with the rice, so I would guesstimate about a half cup, or just enough to make the condensed soup a little saucier) with the soup and add that as well as the spices to taste (everything is cooked, so tasting is safe here). Roughly chopped olives only get added right as you are about to pull the concoction off the heat. It looks awful and tastes delicious.
Stack it up on your rice, add a little soy sauce if you have some around, and serve with a side salad, and/or tortillas, and/or chips and dip.
(Or! Throw the rice and chicken mixture in a coffee mug, add your soy sauce, and now you have a one-handed meal to take wherever, amazing.)

I don’t have any pictures of my blasphemous faux carbonara bowl, so please enjoy this old picture of Watson that Snapchat reminded me of this week.

“I really need to use these veggies” is a little more intense because you cook in a couple stages. Veggies and beef don’t cook the same, and I make my sauce separate because that way if I goof it I can start again. Also… egg, if you are feeling fancy, which I struggle with, because again, cooking challenged. This is Joe’s favorite because he sometimes gets a little of the cooked beef before it’s integrated, and that’s just the best thing ever, clearly.
You’ll need beef, thinly cut into strips. Please don’t ask me what I get usually, the nice guy at the butchers counter sees me coming and immediately stops what he’s doing because he knows I’m literally the worst. I have tried, and I think flank steak works well here, but honestly? I tend to use whatever is on sale that the butcher won’t murder me over when I tell him what I’m up to.
You’ll need whatever veg is going south fast in your fridge (but isn’t south yet… gross). I like broccoli and peas, carrots and beans. Sometimes spinach… but that’s more work and honestly? If I have spinach it’s going in chicken gnocchi soup. You’ll need soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and ginger (I like fresh but I tend to store it poorly, so I use paste, dried is fine too, adjust for flavor intensity accordingly).
Also, some eggs, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a little cornstarch. Sesame seeds are tasty on this as garnish, and I have some theoretically in my cabinet, but they disappear every time I need them, so they are optional. Water Chestnuts are fancy and yummy here too, but not necessary.
You may recognize a lot of these steps if you’ve ever made beef and broccoli, which is my favorite! A lot of this meal is born of me teaching myself to make that. Mix about two tbsp of cornstarch in a little water until you get a thick slurry, and add your raw beef, so it’s coated. Throw a little veggie oil in a sauté pan and cook your meat through, you might need to do batches, that’s totally fine. Also, peak lazy moment, you can totally skip the slurry part. It’s tasty either way.
After your meat is safely in a bowl to the side, cook up your veggies. I can’t give you specific instructions here, other than harder veggies need more time than softer (and you might choose to steam your broccoli if you really want soft broccoli), don’t burn your garlic or onions (you may want to do these separately as well if you have crazy hard veggies), I add some of the ginger and a little soy sauce to my veggies to cook in (don’t saturate, just a little), and for the love of all that is good and holy taste your veggies as you season! I bet you won’t need salt, but a lot of people add it unconsciously. Then set aside your veggies. Keep your pan around, don’t wash (or put in the sink and ignore it) just yet.
Again, I make my sauce separately, so I pull out a little pan here (I have dishwasher privilege, I totally get it if you want to use the same pan, just be prepared to rinse it out so we can cook the eggs last), I add a little sesame oil, soy sauce, more ginger than you think (but… be careful) and a solid spoonful of brown sugar. I add more soy sauce than sesame oil, and more oil than brown sugar, but taste as you go and you’ll get it where you like it. Add a little lemon juice for brightness and let it warm through and get a little thicker (watch it though, it’s sugar and that nonsense is dark magic). While that’s warming on low dissolving your sugar, start your fried eggs.
Best advice for eggs? Get someone else to make them. Seriously. Second best advice? Hold your pan at a tilt so your egg cooks in the crook of the pan until it sets on the bottom, then it’ll hold it’s shape better and be easier to plate. Also, try to keep your yolk runny and intact, it’s the best for this.
Stack beef on rice, veggies on beef, egg on veggies. Drizzle a solid amount of the sauce over it, and any additional soy sauce you might want. Sesame seeds for fanciness. Take Instagram pictures, load Netflix up, profit.

Look at those veggies!! (Ignore that I overcooked my egg…)
Joe begging for snacks

Goodness, this is a long one this week. I guess that’s what happens when I am too gross to be outside. I’m gonna go microwave some leftovers and watch BBC’s Sherlock for the 1 millionth time.
Until we chat again, my friends!

Can You Get Frequent Flyer Miles At The Vet?

Alternatively titled: Why is 2021 the year of vet visits?!

Alternatively alternatively titled: This post is just a collection of blurry phone photos

Hi Friends!

Oh my goodness, we survived it. A crazy weekend that involved a wedding, a funeral, and a graduation ceremony and parade and party. Of course, it picked this weekend to be 91 degrees too! But we survived it, and short of the funeral, everyone had a good time at their events. I don’t know if you can have a “good” time at a funeral, but you can laugh and celebrate your loved one’s life, which we did. The wedding was outdoors, but none of the bridal party melted away so that was a success. The graduation was great! They had the AC on full blast, something like 80% of the graduating class earned some form of academic honors, the parade had a live band on the finale float, and the whole town turned out to celebrate in some way or another.

Nothing quite like packing a year’s worth of events into 48 hours. But when you have 20 first cousins and about 35 family members within the county, events start stacking up like jenga blocks. When you plan your weekends down to “and I’ll have five minutes to eat here” it quickly becomes a science. I literally have so many half done tasks that got left behind, and I keep finding more! We won’t talk about the small pull cart in my formal dining space… that’s basically become furniture at this point. I’ll pack it up and get it back into my trunk eventually, it’s fine.

And, of course, a weekend like this also means a lot of things on the farm got a little behind. Dad has spent this week putting the garden in (pictures coming soon, when it stops storming), and I spent the week supporting Watson, who’s run of the mill dental cleaning turned into an 18 teeth extraction extravaganza. Little guy is feeling rough. He’s definitely a little miffed about the situation.

Poor little guy has the curse of poodle teeth, but hes taking it like a champ. Got some tasty soft food, hes basically been toted around everywhere I go, and I worked from home all this week so I could properly manage his meds. Hes definitely milked it a little, but he also had a very sore mouth so I can’t be mad. He is totally okay as long as I stay in his line of sight, if I try to disappear I have to grab someone to babysit because he has a small panic. He is also really frustrated that he can’t eat the same food as his brothers, even though he’s been loving the super soft food. He’s always been a little bit of a food hoarder, so it goes against his life principles to not constantly be eating and guarding the food bowl.

Watson pre-teeth extraction, being a ham
Watson, joining a Zoom meeting, telling me it was time for his antibiotics

Sherlock also visited the bet this week because we noticed a cataract forming on his eye. It didn’t seem to be bugging him at all, but I am a worrier to the maximum and didn’t want something preventable to turn into an issue down the line. Sherlock is such a champ as well and handled all parts of the appointment perfectly, from the dye to the flashlights, to the ear check (we had a lovely vet student hang out with us, who was in awe of how tiny Sherlock is, fun fact, he weighed in at 3.4 pounds this time). The good news is, while our vet has some reservations, she’s pretty sure the cataract is hereditary or at the very lease, an intrinsic part of him, and, while it will most likely annoy him some as it progresses, he seems totally fine with it for now, and there’s no sign of infection or pain. She asked if I had seen any changes in vision but to be honest, he’s always acted as though he didn’t have great eyesight, so I don’t think I would notice the difference.

This is Sherlock’s good eye, also isn’t he cute?!
Sherlock never stops bouncing, so most of my photos of him are blurry, but here you can kinda see to the left of the image his grey eye. Also, peep my amazing, definitely not seriously dated 70s linoleum… yep, it’s several shades of gold…jealous?

Nellie and Ro have had quite a few days off due to the craziness of the weekend and the following vet post care filled week. I did find some time to give the girls a really good brushing out so we have (well, had, for about two minutes, hence why I didn’t get pictures in time) shiny clean coats. Ro usually hates being brushed out, no patience for standing around, but I think she had enough of her knotted sprinkler hair. Admittedly, the mane and tail situation on this farm still needs work.

The latter half of this week has been kinda stormy in that irritating “Technically I can still get chores done but it’s all going to be way harder” kinda way. I am excited for it in some regards though, as my uncle’s water pump went out this week and he’s at serious risk of losing about 200 acres of crop. My aunt has been trying to track down a replacement, or even a temporary solution, but with all the craziness with shipping and import/export lately, it’s hard to get ahold of anything anywhere, let alone machinery parts in a rural setting. Just an icky situation all around. Hopefully the rain is enough to help a little, it’s splattering against my window as I write, so I hope it’s hitting up there as well.

As it all stands, I’m looking forward to a super relaxing calm weekend. Going to catch up on some riding, some cleaning, and most importantly, some resting. Maybe even get some ideas for blog stuff actualized…. Maybe. Overall, a much needed break. Hopefully we will get back to our regular farm shenanigans next week, can’t wait to show you the garden, I wanna try to get some fun horse related footage, and I’ve got lots of summer projects I want to take you along on.
Until we chat again, my friends!

Scooby was trying so hard to be brave, he hates the flooring in my room. Also, new riding boots! It’s only been a decade, about time for a replacement (Especially since you can see my socks through my current boots)

Green Acres or Greener Pastures?

TW: Talking about losing a family member, and mostly just musing aloud about life. No stress if you skip this one, it got a little heavy, sorry guys.

Hi all,

Anyone here ever watch Green Acres? For the uninitiated, Lisa and Oliver Douglas (Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert) move from a New York penthouse to a rundown farm in the middle of very rural Hooterville in order to fulfill Oliver’s dream of being a farmer. Lisa is against leaving Park Avenue, but willingly adapts to farm life, and the silly shenanigans intrinsic of a late 60’s early 70’s sitcom ensues. Oliver is never quite able to overcome all the wacky work that the farm needs, and the host of characters is just nutty enough to wreak good-natured havoc for the half hour time slot.

I’m convinced I accidentally moved to Hooterville… trust me, the cast fits.

But, honestly, that’s not why I brought the show up. I was thinking about the words to the theme song, which is a duet where Oliver and Lisa sing about their conflicting views on moving to a farm. It’s a definite earworm, take that into account before you look it up. She sings “New York is where I’d rather stay…” and he sings “farm living is the life for me”. That hit a particular cord this week, as I have been reflecting a lot on how lucky I am to live on a farm, but only because I see it that way.

We lost a family member a little earlier this month, he was an interesting fellow. I bring him up because he grew up on a farm, was a quintessential farm kid, doing everything from planting and irrigating to animal husbandry tasks and cleaning out manure piles. He also left the farm as soon as he could and swore, he was never coming back.

Other than some visits, he never did come back to the farm lifestyle. He was so much happier living in a city environment, closer to friends, less dirt, and more people with his interests. I’m not judging him in any way, everyone’s different, but I never got it. How could you not love waking up and taking care of the animals, going out to see your seeds grow, and ending the day tired and covered head to toe in mud? He’s like Eva Gabor’s character, he didn’t really enjoy the rural lifestyle, but he put up with it for his family, because they did.

I didn’t know this family member incredibly well, as he had left before I was old enough to understand, but I remember once, when I was most likely going on and on (and on and on, as I tend to do) about how much fun I was having visiting his parents farm, he just looked tired and said something along the lines of “One day the magic will wear off, kiddo”.

This isn’t uncommon right? Heck, we have a whole template for romance flicks that revolve around the main character leaving the farm, and their soul mate behind for a time (I’m looking at you, Hallmark). In the movies they always come back, and fall back in love with (and sometimes, magically save) the family farm. I wonder how true that is to life, do citified farm kids always come back? Would my family member have eventually returned? Or can you truly, and honestly, burn out on the farm life?

I worry about this sometimes, what if I get bored of the farm? What if one day I don’t wake up excited to get my day started? I honestly don’t see that happening, at least not soon. I currently wake up each morning just as excited about the farm as I did day one, possibly even more so now as the critter count has grown. I dream of raising kids, and spoiling grandkids, here. I love this place, I love the sunrises, the sunsets, the smell of fresh cut alfalfa and wet horse (don’t judge me). I love coming home to critter kisses and farm fresh eggs, and the list of outdoor chores that only ever gets longer. I even love those days when I come home to broken irrigation, water geysers in my pasture, and knocked over fencing. I know I live on a hobby farm, I know I don’t see the pressures of a truck farm, so it’s different, but I still love the rural lifestyle. Honestly, I really like who I am when I’m on the farm too, level-headed, capable, and happy. It’s a gift to feel that way in this day and age.

I truly don’t think my family member loved those days or felt that way. I don’t think he ever stood by a corral fence watching the sunset just to prolong being outside a little longer. I doubt highly he packed up after a long day at work dreaming of an evening ride or curling up on the back porch for a quiet night. And that’s totally fine, some people love the bright lights, the hustle and bustle, the barely controlled chaos and constant buzz of city living, and I’m so happy he got to experience that. There’s absolute magic in those moments.

I couldn’t see that magic when I lived on the coast. I couldn’t see the magic in stoplights reflecting on wet pavement, seeing and connecting with a hundred different faces you never knew, or the moments of peace watching the world go by from an apartment window. He could. I see the magic in tiny plant starts, wet hoof prints, bailing twine fixes, and sweet tea on the back porch. There’s lots of different magic in the world, you just have to find yours. I hope you have that opportunity, and I hope the magic this little plot of land holds for me never grows dim.

Farm living is definitely not for everyone, that’s for sure, but it’s definitely for me.

There’s Always Something To Do On A Farm

Happy Friday, you beautiful souls!
My aunt and uncle are visiting me, and I am so excited! Don’t worry, we are being covid safe. I love having them here, prior to covid they would come a few times a summer and stay for a couple weeks at a time, this time they are staying for only a couple days but might be able to come again soon!
We got lots accomplished this week. I’m pretty happy.
First of all, my lovely mom went treasure hunting in our storage space and found something very special to me. For a little context, my parents moved in and my mom almost immediately had her health deteriorate, my brother and I moved back and almost immediately took over a lot of the day to day, so it took over a year to actually unpack and settle, and there’s a storage shed space on the farm that is basically “everything we didn’t have time to unpack at the time”. Which is why I’m still missing items almost three years on. It’s a little daunting to go in there, there’s a lot of Christmas décor, baby clothes, and just random weird nostalgia everywhere. Anyways, my mom has taken to going in there every couple of weeks and sorting a little here and there, she seems to like having it as an independent project, and she found my show bridle!

Some of the details on my beautiful show bridle

I was gifted this beautiful, hand-made bridle by my parents when I was 16. I was showing my trainer’s crazy pink paint horse (he was absolutely pink in the sunshine, and the most opinionated giant puppy dog of a gelding) and I had none of my own tack and equipment. I saw the bridle at a swap meet where I was volunteering, my trainer noticed and sneakily told my parents, and they pulled a sneaky purchase without my knowledge. Funnily enough, it never fit Wilson well, so it never got used, but I loved that thing, and it hung in my closet forever in high school and most of university. When I moved, it never made it to my senior year housing, and when I moved home it wasn’t with the stuff at my parents’ house either. I had a feeling it was gone forever. BUT! Somewhere, and I have no idea where because I hunted for it forever, Mom found it, and it fits Ro! So, my gorgeous show bridle is back in my life!
Also, I got an honest to goodness gate latch on my arena gate! I no longer need to walk around or struggle to unchain the gate, and life just got so much easier. I can’t wait to slowly replace every chain latch with an actual one hand latch. So much easier and safer. I leave the chains on, so that I can secure never opened gates, and so I have a backup should a latch break, but I hate using chain latches for day to day and am always excited to upgrade.
I cleaned up and shocked the water trough, and added a new self-cleaning bag of barley, finally folded up the giant tarp that has been taking over my tack space, and finally got the farrier out to see the girls and trim up hooves! All in between some crazy looking clouds that threatened to turn ugly. It was a crazy busy week.

New Gate Latch (I definitely have found new reasons to go in and out of the arena just to use the gate)

While I’ve been at work (the new job is going amazingly by the way, maybe one day I’ll share a little more about what I do when I’m off being a fancy Software Dev) Mom and Dad have been cleaning out and mulching the gardens around the house. It looks so amazing! I must say, I was a little skeptical about the mulch, I thought it would be too dark and stuffy, but it really is making the beds look clean and fresh. I need to do some work in those gardens, we lost a lot of our perennials this year because of the late cold snaps and inconsistent weather… the winds haven’t helped much either. I have heard, however, that a family member is putting in a new deck and removing some of their beds, so I might see if I can re-home their bulbs. Our tulips have done well, so hopefully more of those will continue to erupt.
In other news, there’s a horse down the way from us that looks so similar to Ro, and I’ve been curious about him for a while, so you can imagine my surprise when I came home this week and said horse, with rider, were wandering along the canal road, just the other side of the canal from my corral. It honestly scared me at first because it kind of looked like Ro had, somehow, gotten out and over to the road. I think I also scared the rider because I went absolutely flying down to the corral to see what on earth was going on. But the horses name is Jack and the rider’s name is Jaime, and I think we might be good neighbors, if all he said about Jack being his best companion was true.

Lots of water for warm weather flowers!

Well that’s all for us around here, the weather is getting warm throughout the day, so soon I’ll need to move my schedule around to be able to work in the cool of the morning outside. Summer is my absolute favorite, and I am so happy it’s starting to show.
Until we chat again, my friends!