Bottling Wormy Pears

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I found this creepy worm while trying to bottle pears. You can see its disgusting, wriggly body in the left center of the picture.

Would you like a few worms with your freshly bottled pears? Neither would I. That is why I ended up chucking an entire half-bushel of Bartlett pears.

I should have known. When I saw an online ad for pears that were half the price of any place nearby. That was a red flag.

When I drove into the heart of a broken down city scrambling to find a rundown home on the side of a dirt/gravel road I should have suspected. That was a red flag.

When the guy insisted on cash only. When he mentioned that he doesn’t spray his trees because likes to grow his pears “organically.” When he told me it was his first year selling.

Red flag, red flag, red flag.

I texted this to my husband while getting ready to leave:

“I entered the ghetto, bought pears and lived.”

Red flag!

But I was so proud of the fact that I stumbled upon a great deal, I was blinded by the price tag. I should have paid $10 more and got a box of beautifully sized worm-free pears.

But I didn’t. I called the number of the online ad, drove to a shady part of town, picked up my pears and a week later busted into three of them only to find three small, peach colored wriggly worms staring back at me.

Disgusting.

I could have dealt with one worm. Maybe even two.

But by the time I saw the third worm I was ready to throw up. I quickly dumped all of the pears into a plastic sack and made my husband toss them in our outside garbage can.

One half-bushel gone. Wasted.

photo-95I was all set up and ready to whip out several bottles of beautifully white, halved pears. I went to bed pearless.

I was sad. My husband was happy. That meant he didn’t have to help me peel, core and bottle a bunch of pears.

I swore off bottling pears and decided to buy a case of cans of pears to get us buy this year. There’s no way you can get me to cut open another raw pear for a long time.

I should have forked over a little more money to get a quality product. Sometimes my frugality leads to bigger problems.

Next time I’m going to a well-known fruit stand. Somewhere I wouldn’t be scared out of my mind to go back to and get a refund if the pears were worm-infested. Somewhere that is highly unlikely to have wormy pears to begin with.

To heck with saving a buck next fall, I’m going somewhere I can trust.

Dutch Oven Bug-Cooking Disaster

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A slug roasting on our Dutch oven lid.

It’s a miracle any of my children survived to eat the Dutch oven lasagna we cooked last week. Cooking outside in the wild ended up being just that – wild.

By the time we were ready to eat it I was ready to throw in the towel on motherhood. I swear I’m not cut out for most of these things.

I was cleaning up inside while my husband set up the Dutch oven in our cooking pit outside.

When I made it outside to check on our meal I was greeted by my two oldest boys who were so excited to show me something in a bubble bottle they couldn’t hardly contain themselves.

What was it?

A drowned Black Widow Spider. I’m not kidding. I’ve lectured them about touching them. I’ve tried to scare them to death with stories of how they will infect them with poison. But they just don’t seem to get the fact that spiders are dangerous. And Black Widows are number one or two on the danger list.

They assured me that they didn’t “touch” it. They used a set of pliers to pluck it from our backyard window well. Then they drowned it in the water.

Repulsive.

What was even more repulsive was when my husband dumped the stupid spider out of the bottle and it started wriggling around on the ground. The “drowned” spider was still alive and kicking.

I’m going to have to bug bomb my entire house to keep from having spider-fang-piercing-my-skin nightmares.

After the spider episode I went to the backyard to look for some cantaloupe from our garden. I was so stoked about a yellow-orange melon that fell off our vine that I forgot to keep an eye on our one-year-old. Where was he headed? You guessed it, straight for the fire-hot Dutch Oven.

The next thing I knew he was screaming and crying. He had burned two of his cute, chubby fingertips on the hot metal oven. I was horrified.

I can’t believe I forgot to keep him safe. Worst. Mother. Ever.

It took forever to calm him down. I kept running his hand under the cold water in our bathroom wishing it were my fingers that were burned not his.

To make me feel even better, my oldest son pointed out at dinner that it could have been much worse. Our baby could have fallen into the Dutch oven pit and burned his face.

Nice. Thank you for the mental image. At that point I couldn’t have felt worse.

We all went back outside and my two oldest got in a fistfight over a toy. My oldest ended up punching my five-year-old in the mouth several times.

I carried swollen mouth boy into the house and made him sit on one couch while the aggressor was forced onto the other couch. They sat in timeout for several minutes. Those were the calmest minutes of the night.

Then they were let off time out and back outside.

Just before our meal was done cooking, I heard my oldest shouting next to the Dutch Oven. Seriously? I thought he was burned too. But no, it was only his slug that was burned. And he wasn’t mad that it was roasting on the Dutch oven. He was mad that he dropped it prematurely.

Turns out that while my husband and I were cooking lasagna on the inside of our Dutch oven, our oldest two boys were cooking up a bug buffet on the outside.

Disgusting.

They were grilling insects on the lid of the oven. I nearly threw up.

In one hour my children had handled a wickedly dangerous venomous spider, boxed their brother’s face swollen, burned blisters to the tips of their fingers and roasted a delicious dinner of grasshopper and slug.

They were out of control and I was ready to give up.

The only thing that made me feel better was eating two giant slices of the homemade Dutch oven lasagna.

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It was delicious.

Then I went to bed, pulled the covers over my head and prayed that the next day would be more serene.

Luckily it was. Otherwise I may have quit.

Crock Pot Dinner Rolls

rolls 8I did it! I cooked 9 warm, fluffy, delicious dinner rolls in my 6-quart slow cooker.

I’ve wanted to do this for a really long time. I’ve thought about it, dreamt about it and wondered if it was possible. And since I’m banned from using the oven in the summer (you can read about that here and here) I’ve been craving rolls for months.

Finally on Monday I could take it no longer. I searched online for others who have used their crock pots as roll cookers and found someone else who had tried it.

That gave me inspiration. With the help of my boys, and a bag of Rhodes frozen dinner rolls, I was able to cook a bunch of rolls without heating up my entire house.

We tried them Monday and they got a little crisp on the ends so we did them Tuesday too. It was two nights of back-to-back-roll-eating goodness.

I’m so excited. Here’s how we did it.

First we greased the bottom of my crock pot with vegetable oil. We rubbed it onto a napkin then rubbed it onto the bottom of the pan.

Then we placed 9 rolls in the base of the crock pot – one in the center and eight around it in a circle.We made sure that the rolls weren’t touching the edge of the crock pot pan.

Then we put the lid on and turned the crock pot on low. We cooked it on low for 1 hour and 20 minutes which allowed the rolls to thaw, rise and begin to cook.

Then we turned the crock pot to high and cooked the rolls for another 10 minutes. (The first night we cooked them for an hour on high. I think that was a little too long and some of the roll edges got burned. You may have to play around with this time and adjust if need be.)

They ended up like this.

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They may not have turned out as fluffy or round as other peoples’ rolls, but to me – someone who really struggles cooking normal-looking rolls – they looked beautiful.

If you want them with golden tops, I suggest popping them into the oven after they are done in the crock pot and broiling them for a minute or two. I was so happy with our rolls I didn’t bother with the broiler.

They may not have risen as high as they would have if I had baked them in the oven and they may not have been as golden, but they tasted great.
My husband pointed out that fall is coming and soon I will be able to cook in the oven again. But even then I’m sure I’ll use my crock pot to cook rolls every once in a while – especially when my oven is occupied cooking a casserole.

So there you have it – a fast, easy way to cook rolls in a slow cooker. It’s so easy my 7-year-old could do it. And he did, Monday night, which is his new night to help me cook dinner.

Going Dutch

Pizza-53Each summer my husband bans me from baking in our hotter-than-Hades-non-insulated-or-air-conditioned kitchen. Normally I just look at him, roll my eyes and ask him if that means he wants to starve.

Not this year.

This year he proposed a solution to the stress of oven-free living: the Dutch oven.

Every Friday for the past several weeks we have cracked open the cast-iron cooker and tried our hand at cooking mountain-man style.

Not only does this help keep our house temperature to a tolerable 78 degrees, it helps us practice new recipes to take camping. Next time we spend some time in the great outdoors, we’re going to eat in style.

We’ve had the Dutch oven for years and we’ve never really learned how to use it. Now we’re forcing ourselves to become experts.

I guess you could say we are going Dutch. When it comes to Friday-night eating anyway. I prepare the food while my husband prepares the oven – outside under our shaded patio.

So far we’ve had breaded chicken breasts with potatoes, ham and cheesy potatoes, pork ribs and potatoes, and – believe it or not – pizza.

I stumbled across an excellent website that has really easy recipes and a full-proof guide/chart for using briquettes (it tells you how many to use for what temperature you want to cook at.) If you get the urge to try cooking outside check out www.dutchovendude.com.

In years past, after my annual kitchen seasonal banishment, I have tried my hand at cooking on the grill – something I have not yet perfected, but it gets us through. I grill a mean honey ranch chicken breast and I have finally acquired a taste for bratwurst.

I have also made good use of the ever-famous slow-cooking crock pot. I’ve mastered several throw-it-in, turn-it-on recipes including an awesome chicken and rice burrito filling.

But the Dutch oven has rounded out our summer cooking nicely. I was going to wait to post about our new cooking style at the end of the summer, but it has been so fun, and the food has been so good, I thought I’d share so you could try it out too!

I strongly recommend it. There’s nothing like the smell of fire-hot briquettes on a warm summer night.

Now I don’t think we will starve, not this summer anyway.

Bake Potato Blow Out

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Pieces of potato that I picked out of the bottom of my oven.

Just when I think I finally have a handle on how to cook for my family, I blow up a baked potato and find myself on my hands and knees scraping off veggie shrapnel from the far right corner of my oven.

Seriously? How hard is it to bake a potato? You wash it, poke it a bunch of times with a fork and viola! It’s ready to toss into the oven. I’ve done this a million times.

Well apparently this time I missed poking one last week – or I only poked it half as many times as I should have. Because while I was waiting for dinner I heard a loud boom and peeked into the oven to find that one of the potatoes was hollowed out with it’s insides shattered in a million pieces on my oven floor.

Dang.

The best part? The oven was too hot for me to clean up the mess and I forgot about it for several days. It wasn’t until I started smelling some serious charred food while preheating the oven a week later that I remembered the potato pieces.

Unfortunately the oven was too hot to wipe out so I found myself carefully wrapping my hands in hot pads and scraping out as much of that poor potato as I could. Then I started preheating it again. All the while hoping that I didn’t set off the smoke detector – something that happens frequently around here.

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The corner of my oven where a potato exploded last week.

I was trying to make enchiladas – one of my favorite recipes. (Thanks to my friend Joanel.)

When your husband walks in from work, takes one whiff of the kitchen and asks if we need to go out to eat, you know you have failed as a housewife.

Luckily, the enchiladas turned out just fine. We may have eaten dinner a little later than normal, but we did eat a home cooked meal. I think I have shared this recipe before, but just in case, here it is. If I can cook them, anyone can. I’m all about easy recipes. But then again I thought baking potatoes was easy. Guess again!

Enjoy!

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Green Chili Enchiladas

Green Chili Enchiladas

Ingredients:

– A Cup or So of Sour Cream

– 1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup

– Milk

– Onion

– A Small Can of Green Chilies

– Cheese

– Tortillas

– Cooked Chicken

Take some sour cream and the can of cream of chicken soup and combine them in a bowl. Add milk until it’s creamy. Then add the can of green chilies and onion. Take a tortilla, smooth a spoonful of the creamy sauce in the middle. Then sprinkle a handful of chicken and cheese on top. Roll into a burrito shape and put in a greased cake pan. Repeat until almost all of the creamy sauce is gone. Save about ½ cup.

Smear the saved ½ cup over the top of the burritos. Sprinkle with a little more cheese. Then bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Gingerbread Trap

 

I am never making another gingerbread man. Ever. gingerbread-man-hi

I tried to do something nice and fun with my kids and it backfired.

Apparently I promised my oldest son that I would make gingerbread cookies with him Saturday night. The same night my husband was gone to a church meeting, my boys were going to a basketball game and I had to speak at a local event.

Somehow that promise had slipped my mind. So I found myself trying to whip up some last-minute cookies to keep him from flipping.

First of all, let me say that the ingredient list for gingerbread cookies is not for the amateur chef. I’d like to know who has molasses, ginger and cloves readily on hand.

Let’s just say that I don’t.

My neighbor doesn’t either. But she had something even better. A Betty Crocker gingerbread cookie mix.

One egg and ¼ cup water later and we were ready to roll. We threw several “men” into the oven and they were finished just as we were ready to leave for the night.

My boys didn’t get home until late and went straight to bed. Magically, in the middle of the night, two of the gingerbread boys disappeared.

The next morning I thought they would be thrilled that their creations had come to life, but my 6-year-old was far from thrilled. He was horrified.

First of all he was mad at me that I let the gingerbread escape. As if I had any control over it. He wanted to run the streets of Roy searching for him.

Secondly he was even more upset that part of his gingerbread (he thinks a leg, I think a head) had fallen off when the little guy “hopped” away. Somehow part of him was lying next to the pile of crumbs on the cookie sheet.

How part of that gingerbread boy got left behind, and how he could run away without his “leg” or “head,” I will never know.  Oops!

My oldest spent all of Sunday afternoon searching for footprints in our yard and building a trap to catch the remainder of the gingerbreads – A trap that required string, tape, fabric, etc. – A trap that tied to my oven and left a big mess in my kitchen – A trap that I made him take down.

I tried to convince him that the gingerbreads that were going to escape had already escaped.

We compromised. Now I have a pyrex glass container filled with gingerbread men sitting on my stove, covered with two bandanas tied extra tight.

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I tell you, you try to do something fun with your kids and it backfires. My son couldn’t be excited that we made magical dough. He had to turn into a gingerbread hunting, killing machine.

It turns out, we don’t even like gingerbread cookies at our house. I don’t know how long those little men will sit trapped on my stovetop.

The only reason my oldest wanted to make the stinking things was to see if they would escape. Go figure.

Cardboard Cookies

For years I have spent a lot of time and money on building up my long-term food storage.

No one ever told me I would never want to use it.

I’m not saying I won’t ever need to use it, I’m just saying that after my cookies tasted like cardboard last week, it’s doubtful I’ll ever crack open another can.

I had the thought recently that I needed to start rotating my stored-up food supply. I have cans of flour that I packaged at my church’s food storehouse that date back to 2006. Others I packaged at my home in 2010.

Instead of buying fresh flour from the store, I’ve been opening cans from my basement and using what I’ve stored. I noticed that my baked goods have been coming out flat. I’ve had to add extra flour to each recipe to compensate.

I can deal with collapsed cookies, but I just can’t stomach ones that taste just plain out nasty.

Each Halloween our family makes ghost sugar cookies with M&M eyes. Last week, those poor ghosts tasted ghastly. I knew was something was amuck when the dough tasted a little bitter. But my two oldest boys keep asking for more samples and reassured me it was delicious.

They must have no taste buds.

After rolling out more than 60 ghosts, baking and then frosting them, I let them sit for the night. The next day, before I took the cookies to a Halloween party, I finally tasted one.

YUCK! I told my husband I was going to trash them all and he let me. That’s when I knew they were bad.

Making sugar cookies is hard work. I nearly cried when I had to dump the 5-dozen ghosts into my outside trash bin.

I really think it was the old flour.

My church encourages its members to have a well-established food reserve to draw on in times of natural disaster or personal crisis. I’ve been trying to slowly grow our hoard. I can’t imagine not being able to feed my little family if we fall on hard times.

But I am going to have to do some research and try something else when it comes to flour storage.  I may end up purchasing a wheat grinder and canning wheat from now on. But who know what that type of diet will do to our tummies if we ever have to use it.

And who knows what I am going to do with the dozens of #10 metal cans filled with musty old flour lining the shelves in my basement.

It sickens me to think that I’m not going to want to cook with any of it. Not even in a disaster – or personal crisis.

Then again, maybe it won’t matter if I am starving. Maybe cardboard tastes loads better when your stomach is empty.

What’s in your long-term food supply? Have you had any success cooking from food storage?

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