How is it even late April? Garden season is upon us, and I don’t feel ready. Wasn’t it February last week?
I’ve been transplanting some of the bigger seedlings, and getting the garden cleaned out, something I ran out of time for in the fall. This year I have fewer seedlings, as I’m trying to be strategic about what I’ll have time to tend as we add children, and also what we tend to need to supplement from the CSA. I rarely need lettuce for the 20 weeks the CSA runs, or kale. So this year, I simply haven’t planted any. I will later on in the season, but not yet.
But spaghetti squashes, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes – there are never enough of those. Apparently I planted garlic last fall because it’s up, and I had completely forgotten. I mean, I vaguely remember, but that was a lot of busy ago. Nonetheless it’s there, in neat rows in the back of the Potager garden, so hooray, there will be garlic this year. I mean, so will there be from the CSA and by fall we’ll probably be drowning in garlic but I planted it so it must be a good idea.
Somewhere along the line in the last year I lost my sense of humor, and I’ve been working on transplanting that, too. We’ve had a decidedly un-funny couple of years, to be sure, and I have tried to not see folks going about their lives all cheerfully are total aliens, but it’s been a little like that. In my defense, a steady stream of pandemic, family deaths, money stress and not enough time will do that to a person.
But I’ve realized that taking everything seriously is actually kind of…boring. It shrinks your world and your interests.
And I really, really hate the idea of being boring.
So my new plan is to be amused by (almost) everything, because life is in fact really funny and weird, and embrace the chaos. I have always joked that I want “It seemed like a good idea at the time…” on my headstone when I die along with a recipe for something that someone 100 years from now will try to make and now I think I mean it. I also want a Viking burial, but those are not really a thing, so maybe I’ll just be composted instead.
As I approach my 50th birthday, speaking of the impossible, I have concluded that it’s really important to know what you want to happen when you die. I don’t really care if there’s a party, but if there is, there should be a wide variety of appetizers, because those are everyone’s favorite’s anyway. No stuffed chicken thank you.
And everyone should take something and use it. I still regret not taking my grandmother’s deviled egg plate, and although I have one now that is probably much nicer, it’s still a regret.
That said, my plan is to go on living for quite some time, enough to be annoying to everyone, so don’t come for my egg plate quite yet. I have a lot to do, and my intention is to be a very fun old lady.
Just not yet.
Yesterday was my probable last day of no-real-plans aloneness for what is probably a long time to come, and I tried to get everything done. Eli is still recovering, so I spent time in the garden and dealing with the laundry that needs to be folded and put away, did some cooking, including clam chowder and organized and cleaned out kids drawers, including starting to load up drawers for the kids who have not arrived yet.
The yardwork is especially a challenge – we have 1.24 acres, and we are the clean up & maintenance crew. Before the giant tax bill we were occasionally able to pay for a spring clean up, but those are pretty expensive, so we just do it as we can. This year that’s going to mean every time we have a free half hour we’ll need to be out there, but it does eventually get done. And in a couple weeks we’ll lay down a few yards of compost. Much of the soil here was pretty bad, so we’re slowly and iteratively working on it, building it up a bit more every year.
And of course, there’s our weekly meal plan and weekend meal prep, which is essential.
Clam chowder was dinner because Eli is finally be able to consume somewhat real somethings, as long as I cut up the Canadian bacon really small. That said, I was probably blithely optimistic about the switch in diets in my last blog post, this is really going to take some work and preparation to make sure there’s food he can eat, and while he eventually will be able to help, not yet.
The rest of the week is going to quite be busy so meal prep and planning is critical, for all 3 meals of each day. And because we have been tightening our belts more, I’m making snacks and things as much as possible.
So this weekend has been heavy on batch cooking. To help make breakfasts easier, I made egg muffin cups – this time with sauteed leek, zucchini and little bits of bacon – quick to grab, easy to chew, good for the freezer. We have a dozen, and I froze all but 4.
There will be leftover clam chowder for a couple lunches during the week, and I may make myself some chicken or tuna salad.
Today I’m going to make these Malted Milk Ice Cream Sandwiches with my son for desserts. We started making them during Covid lockdown, and they are worth all the time and effort. I’ll make tonight’s dinner, the meatballs for Monday, and then Monday evening I’ll mise en place for Tuesday’s dinner.
My target is things that all of us can eat – that the kids like, that Eli can consume, and things that aren’t too stressful for me. It’s going to be an interesting challenge. I might have been wildly overconfident in my last blog post about this. It’s definitely doable, but it is going to take some real prep and planning.
Sunday: Dinner will be stuffed Shells with Ground Beef and Spinach, which is always a hit meal in our house. I’ll probably make popovers to go with it
Monday: Garlic Butter Meatballs with Orzo with some onion and other veggies cooked in. I may make a salad on the side for myself and the oldest, and cut veggies for my son.
Tuesday: We need easy, quick and filling. Creamy Parmesan Sausage Soup should do it. I can do the prep work quickly Monday night or early Tuesday, and then finish the soup with the dairy later so when Eli and my son get home from Fencing class around 6 pm I can feed the hungry folks.
By Wednesday we should have enough leftovers we can have a night of everyone-present-feeds-themselves.
Thursday: More soup! This time Creamy Chicken and Mushroom but with boneless, cooked-until-shreddable chicken. Or maybe Chicken Tortilla Soup. Not sure yet. But definitely soup.
Friday: Eli and I have to travel out to to do a transition visit with the little one, so we likely won’t eat until later. My current plan is to have soup leftovers, but if not I’ll quickly throw some meatballs into broth with sauteed onions, finely chopped and whatever other veggies I can squeak in, unless I manage to make Pav Bhaji in the instant pot that we can come home to.
By Saturday I’ll need another meal plan, and I definitely think that Shepherd’s Pie and Potstickers will be part of it. I also want to get Masarepa next month and make stuffed Arepas, which are a soft corn-based thick pancake that can be topped or stuffed.
I wanted to note a few things here. One, because we’re tightening our belts, we carefully choose the places we spend. Most of our meat comes from Walden Local Meat, a meat delivery service that specializes in local, organic, and sustainable animal welfare. Its important to me if we’re going to eat meat that we do it thoughtfully. We do end up supplementing our chicken and if we need – very occasionally – ground turkey, because there’s never enough and it’s really expensive, but we’re also trying to eat less meat, and less generally.
It’s a pretty expensive investment, so we’re cutting down in other ways. We have a budget and we plan around that based on what we need. Because I don’t always know what Walden local will bring, we often pick our protein and then plan the meal around that. I view this mostly as a fun challenge.
I really focus on things that can make multiple meals. Time is at a premium here, with careers, 2 going on 4 kids, and house and yard work. We have enough going on to keep 4 or 5 adults busy all day every day. In order to sustain that, batch cooking on weekends is essential.
And lastly, I rely on frozen veggies as much as fresh. I have found i sometimes don’t get to Cauliflower when i mean to, and after throwing a lot out, I sometimes buy frozen, which means our Pav Bhaji maybe won’t be quite as authentic as it should be, but I’ll make it when I have time.
And lastly, I love to experiment, especially with foods from other cultures. Often those mean much cheaper ingredients, like lentils, where a 5-lb bag goes a very long way, is a complete protein, and really tastes good. Dal is something I’m working on mastering, as it’s really good, and a great quick and easy lunch. Also there’s just infinite varieties of it, and other uses for lentils – here’s 25 possibilities. Not everything I try is a hit, but by providing variety I find that our options for inexpensive, filling meals grow every month.