Caramelized Pears

“Fun Fact: there are also 3,000 varieties of pears. That’s right. Even pears are more complicated than you thought.” ~ Scott Westerfeld

Pears. I’ve been getting them the last few months in my Misfits Market box. I like pears as an alternative to apples, but they have to be “just right” to make eating them enjoyable.

Warm.

Juicy.

Sweet.

Not just any old pear will do at any old time. But what do you do with pears? My mother used to make a pear crisp, almost like a cobbler but it didn’t have the flaky crust on it. Hers was topped with a rough mixture of oatmeal, brown sugar, and butter.

I had a few pears staring at me from the counter this morning as I debated what treat I should make with them. I settled on caramelizing them and serving them over vanilla ice cream after dinner. A nice change from plain old ice cream, but using up the fruit without wasting it.

I also had a couple of spaghetti squash sitting on the counter. I prepared those as directed in this post, and then will place the pulp in a large ziploc bag to go in the freezer. As long as you squeeze the air out to avoid freezer burn, it should last 7-8 months in the freezer. Of course, when the kids saw what I was cooking I’m fairly certain that it won’t be sitting in the freezer for nearly that long.

I also chopped some cilantro, and placed it into a freezer bag. This will be good for use in my Carnitas recipe as it cooks down during the process. If I were needing cilantro for salsa or guacamole, I’d purchase fresh at that time.

I have done the same with kale or chard that comes in the Misfits Market box. Simply blanch it by boiling it in hot water for a minute, then submerse it in cold water. After it has cooled, I press out as much water as possible using paper towels and then spread it on cookies sheets and place it in the freezer to flash freeze. Once frozen, I remove it and place it into bags in appropriate amounts to be used in my Zuppa Toscano

But . . . back to the pears.

Caramelized Pears

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

5-6 pears, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup butter, cut in slices

1/4 – 1/2 t. cinnamon

1/2 c. brown sugar

Directions

In a non-stick skillet, combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. This should take about 4-5 minutes, but depending on your stove could take up to 10 minutes. Add pears. Cook and stir until pears are tender, 10-15 minutes up to 20 minutes if needed.

Motivation

“Some people will never become who they want to be, because they’re too comfortable being who they are today. How’s that working for you?” ~ Lisa Nichols

Photo by KristopherK on Pexels.com

The comment was made to me the other day, “You’re just more motivated than I am.”

Hmmmmm . . . that made me stop and think.

And then, this evening, I was watching a video on which Lisa Nichols was speaking (and I’ll share it again here): “Some people will never become who they want to be, because they’re too comfortable being who they are today.”

I have so many things that interest me. Books I want to read, movies I want to see, projects I want to do, and interests I want to pursue. If I don’t push myself to accomplish those things . . . they’ll never happen.

No one . . . NO ONE . . . is going to hand out engraved invitations to change your life. If you aspire to be someone different than you are today, or learn something or achieve a goal — you have to put in the work.

It may be hard.

It may be boring.

It may be uncomfortable.

It all depends on how bad you want to effect the change.

Les Brown says, “Live full, die empty.” I like that. A few days ago, I made a post – 10 minutes. I mentioned that we all have the same amount of minutes and hours in each day. While we don’t all have the same guarantee as to the number of years we will live, for the most part we have the same amount of time each day to get things done.

I don’t want to end up on my deathbed, wishing I’d done more. Experienced more. Tried more. Accomplished more. Someone once said that I live life out loud. I dunno ’bout all that. It’s just my life.

In my search for motivation prior to writing this post, I found an article here about the 12 Habits of Extraordinarily Motivated People. I hope you enjoy it.

Pork Neckbones & Sauerkraut

“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” ~ Dorothy Day

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After a hellacious week, we finally made it back home. Back to work. Back to school. Back to our regularly scheduled lives. The angst is still there — wondering about the outcome of the van repairs, whether the rental car will be reimbursed, and on and on and on.

So what makes a stressful situation better? Comfort Food!!!

Neckbones are readily available (if you know where to look) depending on your geographical location. Down here in Alabama, they are available smoked or non-smoked at almost every grocery store or Walmart. In other locations you may have to look under the “flavoring meats” or “soul food” and failing that . . . ask the butcher in the meat department.

Pork Neckbones & Sauerkraut

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2.5 – 3# pork neckbones (non-smoked)

1 large jar of sauerkraut

1 small yellow onion, sliced

4-5 potatoes, diced

1 c. vegetable or chicken broth

1 T. minced garlic

Salt, Pepper, Creole Seasoning

Directions

Rinse and clean the neckbones. In a 5-quart crockpot, layer the potatoes and onions, seasoning each layer lightly with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning to taste. Place the neckbones on top of the vegetables. Cover with sauerkraut and season lightly with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning. Sprinkle with the minced garlic. Cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 6 hours.

Serve with warm cornbread.

It’s warm . . . it’s filling . . .it makes everything feel right with the world.

Budget friendly — this is a meal that will feed many at a low cost. Here’s the breakdown:

Neckbones – $1.25/lb – I paid $2.52

Sauerkraut @ Aldi’s – 1.69

Minced Garlic @ Aldi – 0.89 for the jar, you need 1 Tablespoon (about .08)

4-5 potatoes – $1.29 for 10# bag at Aldi (about 0.25)

yellow onion @ .69/lb – it weighed about 1/2 lb. – so 0.35

Chicken broth @ Aldi – $1.89 for 32 oz, so 0.27 for this recipe.

Total cost = $5.16 divided by 8 servings comes to 0.65 per serving.

You cannot feed 8 people at any fast food restaurant for that price. Nor is the food as nutritious (or delicious).

My next post will cover some of the most common complaints I hear about why people don’t have “time” to cook at home. I can usually combat those excuses (and that’s what they are) with some simple planning tips.

What foods bring you comfort?

Inner Peace

Sometimes things happen beyond our control. I’d say 2020 has been a perfect example of that. International health crises, economic issues, job losses, educational changes, mental health effects, etc.

The challenge is knowing what change you can affect to meet the guidelines while maintaining your inner peace. Take masks as an example. Many states have mandated them. Do I agree with it? Not at all. Can I wear one when I’m out and about without losing my mind? Yes. Will fighting against it change the mandate? No. Will it disrupt my inner peace? Absolutely.

When my children are having rough days and verbalize their frustrations or act out, does it disrupt my inner peace? No. While I feel for them and wish the world weren’t so frustrating, I also realize that I am their safe haven. They can tell me what they are feeling without me taking personal affront.

It’s been a frustrating day of botched plans, unexpected delays, ridiculous company policies and irritations. Do I still have my inner peace? Yes, because in the end . . none of those things truly matter in the grand scheme of life.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

“My favorite fall or winter lunch is big steaming bowls of soup.” ~ Ina Garten

It is September, yes? Time to get out the fall decor, and colors and . . . menu.

I love potato soup as a basic, comforting bowl of warmth. It reheats well and tastes delicious. When your child has just gotten braces and her teeth are hurting, it doesn’t require much effort to chew. It also contains some of my favorite ingredients: cheese, sour cream, and butter.

I started my day off easily — watering the plants and talking to them, checking on the tomatoes in the garden, feeding the kittens and playing with them, and then running errands before it got too hot. I spent a few minutes cutting and chopping and frying and . . . voila! Dinner was in the crockpot with nothing to do but go about the day and come home to finish it and enjoy the flavors.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2# potatoes diced**

4-5 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1/2 a red onion, diced

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1-2 T. butter

3 c. chicken broth**

Salt and Pepper to taste

3/4 c. sour cream

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 c. heavy cream

Directions

Using a 5 quart crockpot, combine the potatoes, onion, bacon, butter, thyme and chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low 6-7 hours or until potatoes are tender. Mash with a potato masher until the potatoes are almost a pureed consistency, leaving some chunks. Stir in sour cream, cheddar cheese and heavy cream. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or turn crockpot off and let sit 5-10- minutes before serving.

** here are some tips and/or trade-offs if you like to play around with a recipe.

  • You can use red potatoes, russet potatoes, white potatoes, any potato you prefer, each will alter the flavor ever so slightly. I prefer the Yukon Gold for appearance and flavor.
  • You can use store bought chicken broth or chicken stock. In a pinch you can also use three chicken bouillon cubes and 3 cups of water. I often make my own chicken broth by boiling chicken to be used in other dishes and storing the broth in the fridge or freezer.
  • The onion can be red, yellow, or vidalia – the taste again will differ slightly depending on the variety chosen.
  • Retain the grease from frying the bacon and add to the crockpot for an extra smokey flavor.
  • If you have slightly less than 2# of potatoes, throw in a couple ribs of celery, diced finely to add mass, texture and taste to the soup.
  • Cheddar comes in a variety of flavors – sharp, mild, extra sharp. The flavor again will vary depending on the cheese. Explore by using Pepper Jack or Swiss.
  • If you like spicy, try adding a finely diced jalapeno to the soup.
  • Fresh thyme is packaged in small, clear boxes in the grocery store’s fresh vegetable section. I just throw the entire sprig in the pot and fish it out with a fork when done cooking.

Food is a creative way to explore tastes and textures. Again I really prefer the Yukon gold potatoes, the red onion, homemade chicken broth (it just tastes richer), and sharp cheddar cheese. Pepper Jack runs a close second, but seeing as how this batch was being consumed by a new braces wearer – I made it to suit her tastes more than mine.

After stirring the sour cream, cheese and heavy cream into the crockpot and setting it on warm, we took the dog on a walk which was just enough time for the flavors to meld. The weight is slightly heavy with the density of the potatoes and cream, but the sensation of the warmth as it goes down is one of the most comforting tastes and feelings in the world.

Lazy Days and Sundays

“Lazy is a strong word. I prefer to call it selective participation.” ~ Unkown

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

Anytime I go to the beach there are never two trees magically available from which to suspend a hammock. I suppose I shall have to close my eyes, relax on the bed and pretend.

We, Jo and I, selectively participated in church this week, and how I have missed it the past two weekends. The first weekend away we were in Florida, the past weekend in the Midwest. It’s a cozy feeling to be in your home church with friends.

After church we had leftovers for lunch. I had made Zuppa Tuscano – let me say, I attempted to make it but had to lie down with a horrible headache, and Jo finished it up. I had taken a bowl for my lunch on Saturday and two bowls with me to share with friends. Last night, being too tired to cook, we had dinner at one of our favorite BBQ joints and those are the leftovers we feasted upon.

We drove into a nearby town to do some window shopping and get some groceries. The rest of the afternoon was spent together, just enjoying the sunshine after a short sprinkle.

Years ago, the Carpenters had a song, “Rainy Days and Mondays” — rather a sad song, but . . .

I have to say Lazy Days and Sundays always make me smile.

Struggling to Recharge

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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Any one who knows me well, knows I care. A lot.

With training in pyschology, sociology and human behavior as well as other training that coincides and works with those . . . I love listening to people. I ask questions and gain deeper insight into who they are and what they are experiencing.

It also drains me.

That is part of the joy of returning to my Missouri home – it gives me a chance to rest, recuperate, recharge and just relax. The little bit of interaction I experience is not overwhelming and the man understands my need to stay in as much as possible. An occasional trip outside the house is fine, but for the most part . . . home is my base.

The few days I’m here, I tend to hibernate. I text less. Talk less. Smile more. Family time is phenomenal. Sleep is at a premium.

So to everyone . . . enjoy the time you have to yourself. Cherish the moments, set boundaries and take care of you!

Renewing the Soul

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” ~ Isak Denison

I don’t know what it is about being near the beach –

Is it the briney smell of the salt water?

Is it the heat of the sun-warmed sand against my skin?

Is it the bright warmth of the sun kissing everything in sight?

Is it the rushing sound of the waves as they roll near the shore and ebb out to form again?

Perhaps it is the feeling, as I view the expanse of sea and sky, that any concerns I may have pale in comparison to the beauty of God’s creation?

What I do know with certainty is that I can fully relax while I am here. I revel in a sense of freedom that comes with the surroundings. Laughter comes easier and more frequently. No responsibilities pressing – – not that they don’t still exist, but I fully take a break.

Anything waiting, will still be waiting when I get back home.

Lazy Days of Summer

“I love how summer just wraps its arms around you like a warm blanket.” ~ Kellie Elmore

Liubov Mernaya/Shutterstock

It was a lazy day yesterday- nothing planned – nothing really pressing.

Sundays are wonderful days because I try not to work extra, I try not to have much to-do listing or heavy work. I want a day to just relax and be . . .

The girl child (lol) asked to go school supply shopping. She’s as much a junkie for office supplies as I am. So I promised, that yes . . . we would go school supply shopping after church.

She is also as much an OCD organizer as I am. Even though she will be doing the virtual school this year, she has to have binders and notebooks and paper and pens and folders and planners and dry erase markers and a whiteboard week planner to hang in her room. And . . . and . . . and . . . We did leave some supplies at Target for other shoppers to pick up. (Quite generous of her I thought.)

Since we were in the vicinity of an Aldi’s we went on and did some grocery shopping. With the heat of summer full on us, we aren’t favoring much in the heavy meal variety so we settled on ingredients for several types of soups and a request for burritos. I fell into a conversation with a couple there, standing in front of the wine display. I was looking at a bottle of Moscato and the wife asked if I knew whether they sold alcohol on Sundays. My reply was that I assumed we would find out when I went thru the check-out line. Moments later we passed again in another aisle and she had a couple bottles of sweet red wine in her cart – we laughed and hugged and she assured me I wouldn’t be the only one bucking the system if it came down to it.

Just a few more days and we will be relaxing on the beach, letting the summer warmth wrap us up in her arms and soothing our souls with the sounds of the surf. Until then, I will content myself with the sounds of our local waterfalls as they work their magic . . .

And I Smile

“If you’re reading this… Congratulations, you’re alive. If that’s not something to smile about, then I don’t know what is.” ~ Chad Sugg

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Clothespins? yeah . . . clothespins. they make me smile

My home – makes me smile. Driving past it, pulling into the driveway. Walking into it. Spending time there. It’s my Oasis of Serenity, my peaceful place.

Something as simple as doing laundry and hanging it outside with those clothespins make me smile.

Now matter what shitty things happen to me, or what is said or done, I can come home and leave it on the doorstep. Heck let’s leave it on the street, don’t even let it in the driveway.

Watching my kids grow and mature and question – that really makes me smile. I do and have done what I can to raise them right, but they are free spirits with their own ideas. Hearing them question events, watching them struggle with ideas as they grow into the wonderful people they will be – fills my heart right up to the brim!

Oils – help set the stage for relaxation. A little frankincense with coconut oil rubbed into my skin smells wonderful and keeps it soft. A bit of peppermint, lemon and lavender in the diffuser helps calm and restore a sense of peace before bedtime.

Choosing color schemes and adding my personal touches to the house – takes time but in the end it will be worth it. Every room a pleasure in which to spend time. It must appeal to all the senses. Life is an ongoing sensual experience – if you’re not using them and appreciating them, you’re missing out!

Food – really makes me smile. I like to cook it and eat it! Flavors also make me smile. Combinations of taste that hit the tongue and spark a smile and usually a “Mmmmmmm . . .” or as Dave would say “a food-gasm” are the best. I like to call them flavor explosions.

Water – maybe it’s the sign of Cancer or the fact that we are made up of 78-80% water. Sinking into a warm bath as the water slides over my skin or relaxing as the spray of the shower hits my back. When I’m lucky enough to be at the other home – the massage of the hot tub jets against my muscles. Even placing my hands in warm dishwater is an experience that pulls the corners of my mouth up into a smile.

What sights or sounds, flavors or tastes, make you smile?