"What do you want for dinner?"
"I don't know. What do you want for dinner?"
That's the pre-dinner conversation at my house nearly every.single.night. Sometimes I just want some idea of something someone else would like me to cook - that's fast and easy and doesn't require a bread dough (Big Little Sister has a stock answer to the question - pizza:). I don't ask her that question very often).
So, we're sitting around at 6:30. I haven't started anything, yet, and I've asked Deus Ex Machina ... twice ... what he wants. He's not answering and just keeps batting the question back at me, like we're playing some linguistic tennis match.
"We have hamburg and stew beef in the fridge," he offers.
"We could have spaghetti."
"No tomato sauce," I tell him. "But we have green tomatoes in the garden I could throw in there. It's just going to take a while for those to cook down to a consistency you'd like."
I grin. Fun, isn't it? I'm thinking. This trying to figure out what to put on the plates. It's the hardest thing I do all day long, in fact, and it's not just inventorying the kitchen for what's available. It's much more complicated than that.
"We could put the stew meat in the oven with some cut up potatoes."
"We don't have any potatoes. Although, I could see if any are ready to harvest." I'm thinking there are probably some new potatoes in the garden, but I'd like to wait just a bit longer before I disturb the buckets, as anything harvested right now wouldn't be much more than just a single meal. It seems a shame to waste a whole bucket for just one dinner.
That's it. He doesn't offer any other ideas, and in the meantime, my brain has been ticking. What do we have? Ground beef. We could have burritos or nachos. Nope. No cheese.
What's tough is that everyone (well, except me and Little Fire Faery) is pretty particular about what needs to be included ... or excluded ... from a meal. Deus Ex Machina likes every meal to have meat. It doesn't have to be a lot of meat, but the meat does need to be there. Big Little Sister needs some sort of grain-based food. Bread is her favorite, but she'll settle for pasta (but not pasta with tomato sauce or meat sauce), and she doesn't eat ground beef ... unless it's made into taco meat. She also doesn't eat pot roast or turkey or fish or eggs (unless in the form of custard or bread pudding) or most vegetables. Sometimes it's easier to figure out what she will eat than to remember the laundry list of things at which she will turn up her nose. Precious will usually try anything, but she has some things she doesn't eat. There are a few vegetables that she claims not to like, including kale and cabbage, both of which I adore, but interestingly, she'll eat a tomato like it's an apple.
I try to make something nutritious that everyone will eat at every meal, and I try to have a lot of choices, because I hate food battles, but the result is that I make things a lot more difficult for myself. This time of year is particularly difficult, because there are so many YUMMY things available, both in my garden and at the farm stand. If I had my way, tonight, I'd have sautéed some summer squash with kale and garlic butter, and maybe some herb of some kind, and called it dinner, but Little Fire Faery and I would have been the only ones who'd have enjoyed it. No meat. No bread. Kale.
We sat staring at each other in silence for several minutes. And then, I jumped up and searched the cookbook ... er, google, for a recipe for "hamburger pie." I didn't have the ingredients for most of the recipes on line, which included mashed potatoes and cheese, but what I did have was some old bread (our neighbors gave to us, because they wouldn't be able to eat it before it went bad, and they figured since there are a lot more of us here than there are of them, we'd be sure to use it up ... and we will - with a great deal of thanks!), and eggs from the chickens, and the aforementioned ground beef, and an assortment of vegetables from the garden and the farm stand.
What I made was bread pudding - for Big Little Sister, because I knew she'd eat it (yes, I realize I fed my daughter dessert for dinner, and she was happy, and it was our eggs and raw milk and organic sugar. So, it's all good).
And then, I made a hamburger pie. I browned the ground beef, and while it was cooking, I threw in an onion, a half tomato, half bell pepper and half summer squash that were leftover from another meal, and a turnip from our garden. While the meat mixture was cooking, I had my girls beat three eggs and soak three pieces of bread in the egg. I added a tablespoon of the herbs from my garden that I'd dried today. When the meat mixture was brown, I put it in a baking dish and spread the bread mixture on the top, and baked it for about a half hour in a 350° oven.
It was REALLY good. While Big Little Sister did not have any, Precious did, and she commented a couple of times one how good it was. She especially liked the cooked bell peppers. Go figure!
While we were eating, I told everyone what was in it, and when I said it was ground beef, Little Fire Faery said, "See? I knew it was cow pie."
And so this dish that was made up on the fly in my kitchen now has a name.
The bread I used on the pie was pumpernickel. I'm sure that didn't have anything to do with the name Little Fire Faery chose for it :).