Welcome to Life at the Holman's.


Within this blog, you will find everything from recipes to school ideas to everyday fun stuff and things we have learned along the way. From time to time you will find just a chronicle of our journey here in Oklahoma. Enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Puree

Homemade pumpkin puree is a fairly inexpensive way to enjoy some very tasty goodies.  A few years back, I decided to make my own pumpkin puree for the first time.  I purchased 2 medium size and one large pumpkin for $5 from a local farmer who was selling them in a plaza parking lot.  I took them home, and began preparing them for pureeing.  Of course, we carved all 3 pumpkins before cutting them up for cooking!
2006 pumpkins....soon to be puree!
This year, I decided that I wanted to make my own puree again.  After all, it is not very hard, and the end result is excellent tasting free pumpkin puree.  I began researching how to puree pumpkin.  In 2006, I cut the pumpkin into strips, peeled it, and then cut it up before cooking.  I cooked the pumpkin in the oven on 350 until it was tender.

I decided to "google" how to puree pumpkin and see if there was another way I could puree it (and to help refresh my memory as to how I had previously pureed).  I found some really good illustrated directions at thepioneerwoman.com.  Here is the link to the directions.  She also had a lot of really beneficial ideas.  First, the use of freezer bags that can easily stack and take up less room in the freezer was a great idea for me.  Last time, I used the 16 ounce containers. It works as well, but it does take up more room.   Also, turning the opening of the bag out before putting pumpkin in it really helped cut down on mess when you try to seal the bag.  I did not have the mess around the rim of the bag from putting the spoons of pumpkin in.

I decided to give the Pioneer Woman's method a shot.  Here is what I did this time:
Step-by-step Pumpkin Puree 
  1. Choose your pumpkin.  I chose a larger pumpkin that was on sale at my local supermarket for $3.33 each.  
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Use a butcher knife to cut out the vine topper.  
  4. Let your kiddos remove the "slim" and the seeds from inside.  Save the seeds for making toasted pumpkin seeds!  
  5. Cut the pumpkin in half from the stem to the bottom and around.  Use a metal spoon to lightly scrape all the goo from the inside.  
  6. Cut each pumpkin half into strips and lay the strips on cookie sheets for baking.  
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until your pumpkin is tender.  
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for some time in order to be able to handle it easily.  
  9. Remove the outer skin by peeling it away.  
  10. Cut the cooked pumpkin into pieces and put it in a blender.  
  11. Puree until smooth.
  12. Put 1 cup of pumpkin in each quart freezer bag.  I used a scale to weigh 8 ounces in each bag.
  13. Flatten the bag to remove most of the air and seal the bag.  Lay flat to store in the freezer.
Here is what we ended up with:











16 - 8 ounce bags of pumpkin puree


Seeds for drying


Toasted Seeds - take about 2 Tbsp. melted butter
 and top with salt.  Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on your oven)  until golden brown
 Tips:
  • While the above method is good and worked just fine, I have to say that I think the other way was maybe a little easier in the long run.  When I peeled the pumpkin and already had it cut into chunks, it seemed to cook faster and more evenly.   
  • I added about 1 Tbsp. of water to a full blender of pumpkin to help it along in the pureeing process.  It just seemed to blend smoother.  
  • 1 full blender of pumpkin chunks for my blender yielded about three 8 ounce servings.
  • I tried to use a food processor (small one), and it did not work very well.  The small food processor was taking too long.  I decided switch to my blender so that it did not take forever to finish.  It also seemed to give a more even consistency.
  • I froze the pumpkin in the 8 ounce portions because that is the amount of half of a small can of pumpkin that you buy at the store.  When I make a recipe, I usually only need 1/2 of the can.  This way I have just what most of my recipes call for.  
  • I placed my completed bags in stacks in my refrigerator freezer in a 9X13 pan to do the initial freezing so that they would freeze flat.
  • The 16 ounce sour cream or butter containers work well for storing the pumpkin in the freezer as well.  They hold the same amount as a small can of pumpkin.
  • I had no idea that cooked pumpkin actually tastes pretty good (sort of like a cross between a squash and a sweet potato) when it is baked.
That is about it.  I look forward to sharing some of the things that we use our pumpkin for in the near future.

As far as cost, here is the break down.  We paid $3.33 for the pumpkin (about 12.5 pounds) and $1.00 for the freezer bags (40 bags for $2.50).  Of course, we did have the propane for our stove, but I have no way of figuring that in. I know that it was not much though.  So...for the extras in gas, we will round up and say that we made 16 - 8 ounce servings of pumpkin puree for roughly $.38 each.  That would result in a can of pumpkin costing about $.76, and  homemade is healthier without all the additives and preservatives.  Plus...the kids had a great time getting slimy!

Then, there is my least favorite part...the clean up!  I would never win the award for "the clean cook."  I like to have a clean kitchen when I start, but I sure seem to get it messy when I am cooking!


1 Small Can Libby's Pumpkin = 15 ounces or 2 of my frozen baggies.  If you typically use a whole can of pumpkin, you can either a freeze a full 15 ounces in one bag to save on bags, or you can fill a sour cream bowl (the kind you reuse from the store when they are empty).  The sour cream/small butter bowl filled almost to the top will equal a small can of Libby's pumpkin (don't fill to the top because you have to have room for freezing and expanding). 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some of you may remember a post that I had back in June (here's the link) about our crawdad getting out of its tank and actually biting our daughter while she was camped out on the bedroom floor.  Well, I wanted to just give a quick update on "Sebastian" (the crawdad).

Sebastian came to us early last summer.  He was the "pet" that my son decided to keep.  He was scouting around in our back watering hole in the field and found the little guy...and I mean little at the time - about 1 1/2 inches.  JJ kept him in an old dish pan with water, rocks, and a couple of other smaller crawdads.  Unfortunately, the other crawdads disappeared (I think they became lunch for Sebastian!).

We eventually bought an aquarium at a garage sale (around May 1st) so that Sebastian could have a more permanent home. At the time, we really did not think the crawdad would survive.  We bought some meal worms for his dinner.  Since then, we have also discovered that her prefers bologna, but he will also eat the meal worms.  (It is really interesting to watch him eat.) He has shed his exoskeleton several times, and he eats the skeleton when he is done.  We have placed snails in the tank and a couple of more baby crawdads...he eats those, too!

So...after all that food, he has grown quite big.  His body is probably about 4 to 4 1/2 inches long (I do not plan on picking him up to measure!), and his pincher's are about the size  he was when we first found him.

Here he is:
Sebastian the Crawdad
Sebastian eating his old skin
The picture is a little blurry!

A little closer

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bathroom Complete!

For some time now, our bathroom has needed to have the wall repaired.  Our landlord had told us a while back what we just needed to give him a call, and he would come over and work with Jason to get it done.  We just never took the time to call.  With winter coming quickly, we knew that it was time.

With our house being older, there was a window in the tub area.  The house was built before there were showers.  However, the water from the shower was leaking around the window, running down in behind the wall, and washing it out.  The decision was made that the best situation was to completely remove the window and rebuild the wall.  Jason told the owner that he would do the job and just take the cost off the rent.

Here is the bathroom before the remodel.

Here you can see the corner where the wall
was washing through.

During the remodel:

When he tore into the wall, much of it was rotted.  He put in new studs and sheet rock, replaced the tub-around and ceiling trim work, and repainted the walls.
Pictures of completed remodel:
Notice the trim on the top left is not yet up.
It is now.
 I will mention that we purchased the Dutch Boy mildew resistant paint from Wal-Mart (I think it was $19). First off, I would not recommend that paint.  It was supposed to be a one coat paint.  However, it was very thin and required 2 coats and probably needs another coat in some areas.  Our walls were previously very light blue, and I was using the brilliant white (which by the way is really white - notice our white tub-around looks a little grey compared to it!).  The paint was so thin that it just did not cover it up.  If you do not want to have to paint multiple layers, buy the Valspar premium paint from Lowe's.  For $10 more, you have a much better paint that takes less time and is truly a one coat paint!

Success! Sweet Pears!

Well, we made our trip back to the pears Saturday (in the truck) in hopes of finding completely ripe, better tasting, sweeter pears, and we were not disappointed.  Success!  The pears had just reached their perfect ripeness.  We took the tuck so we could use the ladder since it seemed the larger pears were all really high up in the tree this time.

You have heard the saying "The grass always looks greener on the other side."  In this case, it was "the pears looked bigger on the other side."  There are 2 more pear trees about 20 feet from our pear tree across a barbed wire fence.  Those pears definitely looked bigger, so I sent the kids on over to check.  And,  They were bigger (quite a bit actually).  We all crossed over the barbed wire fence after pulling the larger pears from our tree.   Those pears were low enough that we did not even need a ladder.

We came home with 5 Wal-Mart sack full of pears.  Now, the fun part...pealing, coring, slicing, freezing.  Of course, I will use my "apple peeler, corer, slicer," but I found (after using it with the first batch) that it does not work as well on pears as with apples.  We have to cut away more of the core after using the machine, but it at least does most of the work.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pears, Pears, Yummy Pears!

Fall brings the cooler weather, the falling leaves, and the ripening pears.  On the back edge of the field connected to the east of our property, there is a field that has a couple of pear trees.  Three years ago when the ranch foreman first told us about the pears, we were able to stock up on loads of pears.  The tree was literally sagging with sweet, juicy pears.  We cut and froze pears, baked pear pies and pear crisp, and ate all the fresh pears that we could ever want.

The following year, we went back hoping to have the pears again.  There wasn't a single pear on the tree!
A couple of weeks ago, we knew that it was pear time again.  We did not have much hopes of having any good pears to eat, but we decided to make the mile trek through the fields to find out.  We started down the winding path of tall grass and weeds.  There were definitely pears this year, but they were still a little bitter and not quite ripe.  We waited a couple of weeks more and our efforts were rewarded.  Jason took our weed trimmer out and semi-cleared us a path so we at least did not have to walk through waist high grass. I also have to add that the mile sees to be much when you start back with a backpack full of pears!

The pears are still not quite as sweet or abundant as they were the first year, but they are pretty good.  So far, we have made some dried pears, pear crisp, poached pears (we did not care for poached pears much!), and cut up fresh pear snacks.  We have also put up about 7-8 quart bags of bears that we will later use for cooked pears over biscuits or pancakes.  I can also use the frozen pears in pear pie.
Dried Pears
We are headed back to the pears today with our truck.  Jason went out today to cut out some of the branches to make the path for the truck a little less "scratchier."  Hopefully, the pears will be fully ready to be picked and preserved!

Dried Pears
Thinly Slice pears and dip them in lemon juice.  Use a dehydrator according to manufacture directions.  It took our dehydrator about 4-5 hours to make the dried (almost crispy) pears.  You can use the pears for a snack or you can store them an rehydrate them for use later in a cake, pie, etc.  I have to say that I have never rehydrated the pears so I can not offer any personal experience/suggestions for that.  We always just eat ours for a snack...they would never last long enough at our house to use at a later date!

Pear Crisp
4-5 ripe Pears
1/4 cup quick cook oats
1/8 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 to 3/4 cup butter (the more the better, right!)
Dash of nutmeg (optional)

Slice the pears (about 1/4 inch thick) and place them in a 9 inch baking dish.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Cut the stick of butter into pieces and use a pastry blender, fork, or 2 knives to cut the butter into the dry mixture.  Pour the mixture evenly over the pears.  Bake at 350 degrees until browned.  Serve hot with vanilla ice cream!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Country Life!

On the rarest of rare occasions, I think to myself...man, I wish we lived in town. Sometimes it would be nice to just take a walk down the sidewalk or ride a bike on a smooth surface and not have to eat  the dust from the gravel road....or maybe be able to run down the street to the grocery store instead of having to plan ahead and make a list for the next "trip to town."  But as I said, those "wanting to live in town moments" are very rare moments indeed.

Today was a reminder of why we love the country so much.  It is quiet and peaceful in the cool evenings sitting outside by our campfire.  We can let the kids take off to play in the field or run up the hill to go fishing in the pond.  We can even fish with them without having to worry about buying a license.    Also, we can buy the kids BB guns, and they have tons of space to shoot them in!
With the cooler weather recently, Jason got the BB gun out and took the kids for some target shooting.  JJ is finally old enough and big enough now that he can balance the gun on his shoulder without a problem.  Well, having to share 1 BB gun amongst 3-4 people calls for a lot of wait time.  So, Jason decided that JJ needed to get his own gun, and while we were there, he decided that Savannah would want one, too.

Surprise!  Red Ryder BB Guns!
JJ opened his first.

Then, it was Savannah's turn. We, of course, had to put them in different boxes so that they would not think they were getting the same things.



 I wasn't sure about her being too excited with the gun, but boy was I wrong.  She opened her package and her eyes lit up with the biggest "WOW!" expression.  We even gave her the option of returning her gun and getting something else if she wanted too, but she said, "No."


 Fully equipted with safety glasses!







We really had a fun day!  Glad to be in the country!



Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's for Dinner? - Toasted Ravioli

Toasted ravioli is a great tasting fun dish that you can use as an appetizer to a football game, a side dish at a dinner party, or a main dish served with pasta sauce and your favorite veggies.

A couple of weeks back, I was craving toasted ravioli.  I have no idea where the craving came from except that I saw a bag of ravioli at Wal-Mart one night and brought it home.  I have only had toasted ravioli one other time that I can remember, but I decided that I wanted to try to make some of my own.  I searched online and studied a couple of different recipes to get the idea of how I should go about making them (www.allrecipes.com is where I started).  One thing that I discovered is that the name "toasted" is a little deceptive!  The toasted ravioli should really be called fried ravioli!  Oh well, that did not keep us from making it.  Now, we have a new dish that the whole family enjoys.

Toasted Ravioli
1 package frozen ravioli
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. garlic
1/8 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1/8 tsp.Italian seasoning
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
Oil for frying
Parmesan cheese

Place the ravioli on a tray about an hour to an hour an a half in advance to allow it to thaw.  When your ready to begin making your toasted ravioli, heat the oil in your fryer (or pan to) 400 degrees.  Mix the bread crumbs, garlic, salt, and Italian seasoning together in a bowl.  Beat the egg in a separate bowl and mix in the milk.  Dip each piece of ravioli in the milk/egg mixture and then roll it in the bread crumb mixture.  Fry the ravioli 5-8 pieces at a time, depending upon the size of your fryer for 2-3 minutes, flipping them half way through the cooking time.  Remove the ravioli when it is golden brown.  Place on a paper towel to drain.  Sprinkle tops with Parmesan cheese.

Tips:

  1. The Italian seasoning is optional.  As a matter of fact, we only use a small 1/8 tsp. amount because our family is not crazy about a strong Italian seasoning flavor.
  2. Tip for frying: If you do not have a thermostat and are not sure if your oil is hot enough, sprinkle a small amount of flour in the oil.  If it sizzles (fries), then you know that it is ready.  You want to make sure your oil is hot enough before you begin frying.  If the oil is not hot enough,  the coating will fall off the ravioli.    
  3. Turn your oven to 175 degrees and keep your finished ravioli in a 9X13 pan in the heated oven to keep them warm while you are making the remaining ravioli.  
  4. We usually purchase a bag of meat ravioli as well as the cheese ravioli.  (Half the family likes one, the other half likes the other!)  This recipe works well with both kinds.
  5. You can make extra and use a toaster over to re-heat them and crisp them back up for a snack.
  6. Serve the ravioli warm with your favorite jar of pasta sauce or ranch dressing for a dip.