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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Talk About Bad Timing . . .

My dinner plan last night contained polenta. I had the chicken stock, milk, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, red pepper, and salt all at a boil when I took the corn polenta out of the pantry, opened the container, and found teeny, tiny bugs all over inside. I wasn't sure if I was hallucinating or if there really were bunches of tiny dark bugs in the polenta. So, I took the container to my husband and asked him what he saw. Yep, lots and lots of crawling, tiny critters.

My seasoned liquids were all set for the corn polenta to be added. At that last minute, I made the switch to an oat polenta, using coarsely ground, rolled oats (ground in the food processor). 

I was thinking, this might be really gross. But as it turned out, it was actually quite good. I finished making the oat polenta just as if this was made from ground corn. I poured the cooked polenta into a pan to cool, cut it into triangles, floured and pan-fried, then topped with marinara sauce.

With the buggy corn polenta, I dumped it on the compost and gave my pantry a thorough cleaning. As far as I can see, the bugs were only in the corn polenta. To be safe, I am in the midst of freezing all of our grains in batches, as I make room in the freezer. 

My husband had thought we could just microwave the polenta and still use it. I don't feel that desperate just yet. I lost about 3 to 5 pounds of grains to the bugs. But I think we're going to be fine.

Have you ever had savory oatmeal before? I've always wanted to try something savory made with oats, just to see how we'd like it. Turns out -- we really enjoyed it. Just one of those instances when you don't know if you'll like it until you try it.


  1. Oh no! Glad you were able to save the day with oats. No, I've never tried savory oat options--good to know it worked well for you.

  2. Good, quick thinking. Thanks for the idea of making savory oat dishes. I don't see why not, since we add oats to meatloaf.

    We've been stretching our foods too. Although we have an assortment of meats and fishes in the freezer, we are thinking of ways to stretch every pound of meat. Recently, my husband thawed a pound of ground pork and Chinese fishcake to make gau gee. That is usually done without much fanfare but this time I objected to the luxury of burning two pounds of protein for an appetizer type dish. So we thought of two other dishes that could use the same meats, a large pot of Japanese root stew, and the leftover pork mixture from wrapping gau gee was sauteed and will be used in rice paper wraps, a more filling meal. We are still on the third day of eating the stew, and froze the rest to eat later.

    We bought 50 pounds of bread flour last month. That is way more than we normally consume. We are concerned about bugs yet don't have the freezer space to break the bag. In the meantime we are keeping the bag away from other items in our pantry, and therefore it sits in our living room.

    Have a wonderful day!!

  3. I've been thinking along the same lines as YHF in that we should ration our food a bit just to see what this new way of life might look like going forward. We have plenty of food and I'm not asking everyone to refrain from eating but more like "how about 1 sausage patty and an egg for breakfast instead of three patties and two eggs" or "you don't need 2 oranges and 1 grapefruit in one day just have one fruit per day". I know we need several servings of fruit per day but if we can't get fresh fruits and veggies for a while then it's better to ration what you have.

    My mom is with me for a while and she was very critical in the amount of food I prepared last night. It was a dinner plate with about 4 different kinds of leftovers, a pot of chicken and rice soup and some bread to feed 4 adults. It wasn't too much because none of the items alone could have fed 4 hungry people. It was a meal that was using up all our fragments. I think she was thinking of only feeding two old people and didn't realize that preparing a meal for 4 was logically double what she would otherwise prepare!

    I'm hoping that by Saturday Dad can come home (he has been moved to rehab.) and be able to get in and out of chairs and bed with minimal to no help. They need each other and I see that very clearly.


    1. Alice it must be hard for your mom but I can just imagine having my mom with me.

  4. Hi Kris,
    I was really glad that this turned out so well. I was a bit skeptical but was encouraged when my daughter tried a spoonful while it was cooking and said it tasted good. I hated to have to throw out the corn polenta, though. I read online that bugs in corn polenta are somewhat common. Now I know. In the future, I will freeze corn polenta for a few days when I get it home from the store.

  5. Hi YHF,
    I don't have room for all of our grains in the freezer at once, either. I will freeze portions for 3 to 4 days each, then cycle new batches into the freezer. The freezing just kills and bug eggs that are in the grains, so they can't hatch later. Disgusting to think about bug eggs in the grains, but that's the reality. I'm glad you have the 50 lbs of flour. If you keep a garden this year, at the very least, you'll have bread and veggies at no extra cost from here on.

  6. Hi Alice,
    I'm glad to hear your dad is doing so well. I can understand what you mean by the two of them need each other.

    You're right about your mom's comment about the quantity of food. From her perspective, she likely only cooks a small amount for the two of them, as elderly people. I remember my grandmother and grandfather ate really small meals, as that's all the energy their bodies needed. Whereas you have two men in your house who still need lots of food. Your mom is probably also just not herself right now, stressed over your father's fall and broken hip, combined with not being in her own home.

    This is a tough time for your whole family. Take good care of yourself right now, too.

  7. Good rescue, Lili -- here's to making it work...!

    (Note, there was a time in the distant past when I found little bugs like that in our rice, at a time we would have been ill afforded to pitch it. What I did then was soak/swish/rinse the rice in water, drowning/making the critters float to the top, whereby they were easily poured and skimmed off. Several vigorous and thorough swish/rinse cycles later and I felt confident I had gotten them all, with the rice for the most part essentially 'cleaned'. I then proceeded to cook the rice as usual. I know it likely sounds gross, but times really were tight back then (-- plus I had to apply Amy Dacyzyn's concept of 'selective squeamishness" (reminding myself there are probably far worse and more toxic things that could be in our food (heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, artificial this and that) than a few teeny, 'natural' bugs. A mind-over-matter kind of thing -- but a mental leap I know that can't work for everyone!).

  8. i make an oatmeal patty to eat for supper.You just mix cooked oatmeal,breadcrumbs,salt,pepper,poultry seasoning or sage,sauteed onion & celery together& form into patties.You then fry in margarine or chicken fat on both sides and serve with chicken gravy or cream of mushroom soup as a gravy.It's based on a recipe from The Prudent Homemaker's blog.

  9. Indeed, I make these savory 'Oat Sausage Patties' (from the blog, "The Plant Eaters") often, and they are actually really tasty (not to mention cheap!)…!

    "Veggie Oat Breakfast Sausage"


    3 1/2 cups water

    1/4 cup soy sauce

    1/4 cup Nutritional yeast flakes

    1 Tbsp. Onion powder

    1 Tbsp. Dried Rosemary

    1 Tbsp. Maple syrup

    2 tsp. Garlic powder

    2- 2 ½ tsp. Dried sage

    1 tsp. Dried Thyme

    1/2 - 1 tsp Liquid smoke

    1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

    3 cups quick-cooking oats

    ½ Cup of Cooked Rice (optional: if you don’t use rice add ½ cup of quick oats)


    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

    2. Line cooking trays with parchment paper

    3. Combine all ingredients, except oats and rice, in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat.

    4. Remove from heat; add oats and rice, stir well. Allow mixture to sit 5 minutes.

    5. Scoop mixture into 2-inch round balls; place on prepared baking sheet and flatten gently with the back of a wet spoon. Bake 20 minutes; flip sausages and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until firm.

    6. Optional but HIGHLY RECOMMEND Heat non-stick skillet add a little soy sauce and sausage, toss to coat and brown/warm. This gives the outer saltiness that sausage has. Or the last 5 or so minutes of baking brush with soy sauce on each side and continue baking process.

    These store well in the fridge and freezer. When storing let them cool after baking and store in fridge or freezer. When ready to eat proceed with step 6.

  10. That's got to be hard, Alice. Parents have done so much for us and when they need help, it isn't always easy because they get kind of stressed and stubborn. That's tough on you. I'll be thinking about you.

    I love hearing about the creative ideas using what we have. Great solution, Lili! Since I have been recuperating, my son also is recovering from knee surgery. We have been taking turns making dinner for the family. We have turned it into a challenge - I choose a couple of ingredients from the pantry that I give him to incorporate into his meal, and he does the same for me. I tend to buy random items when I see a good woohoo deal at Smiths - so I have some interesting things that need used up. I didn't pay much for them so I feel like it's ok to experiment a bit and we both like to try new recipes. Last night I made BBQ pulled jackfruit sandwiches, crisped mushrooms and coleslaw. Tonight he is using a can of chili and corn to make a roasted potato and corn skillet topped with chili. Tomorrow I have been given some bologna to use up and will make a German salad with the bologna, dill pickles, cheese and onions with a viniagrette. Probably I'll make some bread to go with. It's been a fun challenge to help break up the boredom of recovery and also to use up some of my forgotten pantry items. One thing I learned is that I won't buy jackfruit again - even if it's free.

  11. Right now I am really good on food. My son decided last Wednesday to move in with his girlfriend and my daughter's fiancee has two people at work who's wives are being tested for the virus. So instead of 5 we are down to 2.

  12. Way to get creative, Lili! I'm always impressed by your shopping skills and creativity.

    I have an idea for a post if you haven't done this topic already, or even updating with changes. I remember you put things that need used in the kitchen fridge, but would you be able to share how you keep track of what you have on-hand? I feel like the freezer, fridges, and a hall closet we use as pantry are so full that I'm missing things I should be using up. With 7 of us home (daughter's university has gone to online as have so many others), and my youngest, now 10, eating like an adult along with all the teenagers, I need to make food last over the next several weeks and use all those odds and ends.

  13. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of food there are in the world? The oat sausages sound good. I've never heard of jackfruit or gau gee. At least now I know not to try jackfruit!

    Alice, glad your dad is in rehab and hopefully will be home soon. No matter how much we love them, living as adults with our parents is challenging (even more so considering how stressful life is these days). I will pray for you to be able to take all of this in stride--hopefully the bright weather outside today in Michigan is cheering you up! Maybe you can get outside and get a little time to yourself??

    Ruthie, you have found a great way to get through the days with your cooking competition. Maybe if Lili does her Friday weekly meals post you can share them all with us.

    Lili--someone must have told me about corn meal/grits getting buggy because we store them in our fridge ... but I didn't put two and two together till you mentioned it just now. I suppose freezing it for a few days would accomplish the same thing. I have found that moths love flour--there isn't room for all the flour I have to go in the fridge or freezer so I have been double-encasing my containers in big ziplocks to keep them out, which overall has worked well.

  14. Alice, I hope your dad will continue his good recovery and return home soon. Not to sound so harsh, but I do believe there is a silver lining in everything that happens. Perhaps he will be more cautious and be in fewer accidents going forward, and appreciate your words of caution, too.

    Kris, gau gee is a fried wonton, I think. At least that's what it is called in Chinese restaurants. We make up our own recipe for a lot of our cultural dishes, so it sounds better than it is.

    Lili, that's right I wouldn't have to fit all the bags at the same time. I'll do that sooner rather than wait too long, thanks.


  15. Anonymous, I've done the same thing with bugs in the rice. We didn't have much choice at that point -- 5 people to feed on a small income. It was about 20 lbs of rice. I washed the rice as I needed it. But the bugs in the rice were pantry moths and much larger than I had in the ground corn. I suppose I should have tried to wash the polenta.
    I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who has had to resort to something that sounds so awful to most Americans today.

  16. I've seen that recipe for the oat sausage but never tried it. I mentioned it to one daughter this afternoon and she's game to try it. Thanks for posting it!

  17. Hi Ruthie,
    it's good to hear from you. I hope your recuperation is continuing to go well.
    I love the cooking challenge that you and your son have set up! That's a great way to make this situation more of an adventure.
    Continue to take good care of yourself, Ruthie.

  18. Hi Cheryl,
    well, that makes things easier for meals, I'm sure. I hope the wives of the coworkers are doing okay.

  19. Hi Cat,
    wow, you have a real challenge right now with all 7 of you there.
    What I did this week was go through every container of ingredients in the pantry and cupboards that we have, especially those baggies of bulk ingredients that were bought over a year ago. I'm now trying to use up all of those little bits of ingredients in the next week or two. I will move on to the freezer in a week and just start planning meals around what is being stored there. When I've used up all of these odds and ends, I'll be able to cook more like I have become accustomed to. Managing our inventory has become a much larger part of my job than previously, which means I've had to spend less time earning money from home right now.

    Good luck with making your food stretch with all of your family there.

  20. Double bagging your flours should help, Kris. Especially if you've had any pantry moths in the past. It doesn't help if the flour came from the store with moth larvae already in the flour. I'm working on freezing the rice this week. My flour is in large plastic food storage tubs. I placed a layer of plastic wrap across the opening of the tub then closed it tightly. I'm hoping that helps. But I do think my issue was just with the corn. The type of bugs I had were not like moths or their larvae or weevils.

  21. Thank you, Mary.
    Yes, I've heard that bay leaves repel some pantry bugs. I'll try that in the future.


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