cup towers and old ladies

Our church had a New Year's Eve party and it was so much fun. Our friend Eric led lots of minute-to-win-it type games and there was so much laughter. We love our church family and it was fun to play together. Usually it's all Sunday morning together-time, but this was really special.

The last game was a huge cup relay with different tasks to accomplish with plastic cups. There were hundreds of cups and after the games were over Ivar and a 10-year-old and a 27-year-old built a cup pyramid up to the ceiling. I love that sort of intergenerational goodness.

But the reason I'm writing is to tell of one hilarious moment. One of the games was to empty an entire box of kleenex in with one hand. The person who did it first, won. There were 16 boxes of kleenex set up for 16 kids and at the end of the game they were going to throw away the waste. But I shouted out, "wait! No! I'll take all of them! Wait for me to get a garbage bag!" I came back with a huge trash bag and Eric repeated, "Okay, kids. You heard Mrs. Groves. She would like to take all of these kleenex home with her so please pick them up and put them in her bag..."

I laughed so hard. I am suddenly old lady Groves. You know, the one who re-uses tissues?

Maybe you had to be there to see the teenagers' faces as they put their kleenex in my bag. But I'm pretty sure I've got some sort of reputation now...though I'm completely pumped about our TWO GARBAGE BAGS FULL of practically brand new kleenex!

goat. it's what's for dinner.

When it was time to load up our beloved goat, Cici, Ivar was devastated. Cici was more of a pet than a barnyard animal, and all of our hearts were so, so sad.

It was a few weeks later that Rory got the first bag of ground goat out of the deep freeze and asked me to make something out of it. And I'll tell you what. Never in all my days did I think I'd ever be googling recipes for ground goat.

But here's the craziest thing. Before we were married I remember watching a cooking show. Which unto itself is amazing, because I have watched soooo many cooking shows in my life. So many. So, so many. But I remember one in particular of a man in his condo and he was making goat meatballs. He was explaining that goat is the most consumed protein on the planet, just not in America. And he was urging his PBS viewers not to knock it until they tried it.

And somehow, this guy, in his apartment kitchen, cooking goat meatballs, carried me through this first attempt at my newest life skill: cooking with goat meat.

I found a recipe that had me caramelize onions and add a whole lot of thyme and salt and pepper. And then to cool that mixture before adding it to the meat, eggs, bread crumbs and...cream cheese. I added some Worcestershire and all-spice, because those two ingredients have never let me down before. And then I got out my cast-iron skillet, browned these babies on all sides, stuck them in the oven to finish them off and waited for the moment of truth.

The kids came to the table. We were all a little sullen. We knew the meal that was coming our way. Like, we actually knew it. Had known it. And here it was.

Rory was getting everyone's drinks and I was wondering if this was too much for Ivar...if he should be let off the hook with a peanut butter and jelly. I got up to get something and then I heard Rory, "Elsie. Stop eating. You have to wait for all of us to sit down." And she said something about how good her meatball was. As she stuffed another in her mouth I scolded, "no no! We are going to try it all together." And before we were done praying she had eaten three meatballs. So we said our thanks to God for this meal. And then we each took a bite.

And we started to chew very slowly and look around the table.

Because these meatballs were incredible. Like, the best we have ever had.

I kept saying, "what in the world..." and Rory kept laughing, "this is ours! why have we never heard goat is good before? we have our own meat!"

And Ivar, with a huge smile looked at me and said, "Thumbs up, Cici."

Thumbs up, Cici. My favorite line, probably ever.

So now we are cooking with goat. I don't imagine anyone out there will likely begin purchasing goat meat. But in the event that you, too, find yourself looking up goat recipes I want to share the two we have had so far that are positively the best meat we have ever had. Plus, I will need to reference these again and again, so here they are on my handy blog.

Also, you could totally make either of these with beef. Goat is just a very lean meat, so there are added steps to keep the meat from drying out.

St. Goat Balls of A Cici
Caramelize the following in olive oil and butter
2 med onions chopped fine
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp salt
dash of red pepper flakes

1 1/2 lbs ground goat
2 eggs
1/2 c plain bread crumbs
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 brick of cream cheese, added very last, and mixed in as small little chunks

Mix and brown the meat balls in a cast iron skillet on two sides. Finish in 400 degree oven.
**This recipe required no gravy, no ketchup for the kids or bbq sauce. It was so, so good.

Goat Strogonoff 
This is my own recipe. And I don't cook with measures much anymore. I thank all the hours I logged on PBS on Saturday afternoons for teaching me how to cook. :)
goat stew meat
minced garlic
dried onions (fresh would be great too!)
pepper and salt
olive oil
liquid aminos (or soy sauce)

Combine all of this in a bowl
Heat cast iron skillet until hot, add oil and then brown meat on all sides
Put meat in crock pot with beef broth and slow cook 4-5 hours
30 minutes before serving add Worcestershire sauce.

Cook Egg noodles, cover in butter and grated Parmesan cheese
Remove meat from crock pot and make gravy out of juices.

This was CRAZY delicious.

I want to write this for my own self reflection...

We are absolutely positive that this meat tastes happy. I know that sounds loony. But it does taste happy. A few years ago when we began roasting our own chickens I had a really hard time eating them. I often told people, "I like anonymous meat...meat I never knew before..." But I have had a complete change of heart, and I am the most surprised.

You know what is a terrible thought now? Not having ANY IDEA where my meat came from. We've all seen a glimpse of a documentary or flown over cattle operations or seen pictures so terrible and inhumane it seems other-worldly. I'm thinking of chicken operations where birds are stuffed next to each other in cages, never to ever see the light of day. Or cattle yards where cows stand in mud and manure, are fed grain, and never get a piece of fresh grass in their life.

I used to have an indifference to where my meat came from. There are so many things you can get upset about anymore. Leave my hamburgers alone. But I'm not so indifferent any more. And in a crazy twist, I actually am glad we knew our goat, named it, loved it, gave it one very happy life and that we are eating that happy meat. Now I want to know my meat from birth to butcher. And I would like to know the butcher too.

Anyway, I never saw this coming. But here we are. Thumbs up, Cici.

Ivar and Bilbo

Rory and Ivar finished reading The Hobbit two nights ago and Ivar was so sad when it was over. He hates to leave good friends on the pages of a book.

After he and Rory finished the last page of The Hobbit, they sat for a while and talked about it. And then when Rory went to put him to bed, Ivar brought out a surprise for his dad. The whole time they had been reading the book, Ivar had been working on a map of Bilbo's adventure. And then he framed it for Rory and gave it to him. We had no idea this was in the works.

I'm not sure Rory has ever received anything greater in his whole life.

When Rory left for work today, Ivar yelled out to him in the garage, "Good bye, Dad! And may your beard never grow thin!" Which is Bilbo's sweet words of farewell to his dwarf friends.

new year's resolutions

It's going to be a big year for the Groves. Alden declared that in 2018 he will learn how to walk. Hattie announced this is the year she is going to grow her hair out. Elsie raised the bar by stating that in the next 365 days, she will learn to read. Ivar is working towards researching rabbits to raise for the fair. I have high hopes to can or pickle something in every color of the rainbow. And Rory wants to grow his own wheat that he will then grind into flour to make into bread.

Look out 2018. The Groves are coming at you. Just after we stop passing the stomach bug around to each other...

soaked oats

A friend of mine used to say she liked my blog because the topics were so varied and she never knew what was coming up next. I am thinking of her now as I move from marriage to oatmeal.

I love this oatmeal and have wanted to share it for so long. I get out of bed in the middle of the night if I realize I haven't started soaking my oats because I simply do not like regular oatmeal anymore. This stuff has ruined it for me. 

And it's easy to make! The day before I put a cup of old fashioned oats in a tupperware, just  barely cover them with water and then add a dollop of plain greek yogurt. I stir it up, put the lid on and leave it out on my counter. In the morning I boil a cup of water on the stove, add the soaked oats, heat until hot and then add raisins, pecans, cinnamon, salt and butter. 

It's a little sour because of the yogurt. And it's super-duper creamy and smooth. It's hot and filling and hits the spot every morning. I told Rory that it is more important to me now, than coffee. And over time I have been able to cut out the maple syrup I used to put on top. It's more savory and I prefer it that way.

It comes from the cookbook Nourishing Traditions, a really insightful book that has taught me so much about food and how we should be eating. I'm not sure why this is a healthier way to eat oats, it just tastes good to me. I first started eating this while doing my friend Cori's one week eating challenge which was over two months ago and I'm still going strong. 

If you want step-by-step instructions you can find them here.