Sunday, September 21, 2008

Novena to St. Philomena

On the first, eleventh, and twenty first of each month I begin a Novena. Today I started a Novena to St. Philomena. Won't you join me?


We beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant us the pardon of our sins by the intercession of Saint , virgin and martyr, who was always pleasing in Thy sight by her eminent chastity and by the profession of every virtue. Amen.

Illustrious virgin and martyr, Saint Philomena, behold me prostrate before the throne whereupon it has pleased the Most Holy Trinity to place thee. Full of confidence in thy protection, I entreat thee to intercede for me with God, from the heights of Heaven deign to cast a glance upon thy humble client! Spouse of Christ, sustain me in suffering, fortify me in temptation, protect me in the dangers surrounding me, obtain for me the graces necessary to me, and in particular
(Here specify your petition).

Above all, assist me at the hour of my death. Saint Philomena, powerful with God, pray for us. Amen.

O God, Most Holy Trinity, we thank Thee for the graces Thou didst bestow upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, and upon Thy handmaid Philomena, through whose intercession we implore Thy Mercy.


Starbuck's Oatmeal

Forget about those fat filled breakfast sandwiches and greasy biscuit and bacon concoctions, Starbuck's has a healthier alternative. Oatmeal! Mix-ins include dried fruit, nuts and brown sugar. I had all three and the oatmeal was better than anything I've come up with at home from scratch or out of an envelope. The price is about the same as a breakfast sandwich anywhere else but this is one fast food meal you won't have to feel guilty about.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Leanna's Low Fat Alfredo Sauce

After playing around with a lite Alfredo sauce for years, I finally came up with this version. I use it to top fettuccine, to make Seafood Florentine, or as a dipping sauce for fresh Italian or French bread.

½ cup water
4 garlic cloves, finely crushed or 2 tsp garlic from a jar
2/3 cup cold fat free evaporated milk
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 tbsp grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg

Mix the flour and the cold fat free evaporated milk. Stir or shake until flour is dissolved.

In a sauce pan, bring water to a boil and add crushed garlic. Add flour and evap. Milk mixture and stir. Keep stirring as the temperature comes back to a near boil and the mixture starts to thicken. Turn heat off and add the cheese, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Stir until cheese melts and serve.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pizza On the Grill

Grilled Pizza

Let me assure you that pizza on the grill is not an urban legend. You can do it at home. No, it doesn’t fall through or stick to the grate. I have prepared it on both a charcoal grill and a gas grill successfully.

When making grilled pizza there are three important things to remember:

1) The grill must be very hot
2) Olive Oil is your friend
3) Toppings go on in the reverse order from oven baking

Lighting the grill-
For a charcoal grill, you need a high concentration of coals on one side and only a few coals on the opposite side. This will result in a hotter and cooler side of the grill. Once the coals are ready put the lid on the grill to keep it as hot as possible. For a gas grill, light it and close the lid. Aim for a temperature around 500 degrees.

Get your toppings ready. Anything goes here. You’ll be making several mini pizzas so try something different on each one. Balsamic Carmelized Onions (see recipe below) are terrific on pizza with some fresh mozzarella and rosemary. I also like to throw handfuls of fresh herbs on the coals for extra flavor. If you like your vegetables soft you can pre-cook them or throw of few right on the grill grate.

Your dough-
Start with a good pizza dough, not that frozen stuff. If you don’t have a good recipe, try mine (see recipe below). Let it rise for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

After the dough has risen, punch it down and let it rest for 5 minutes. Grab some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a large dinner plate while you’re waiting.

Make several personal size pizzas, about six inches in diameter. Roll the dough with a pastry roller or just keep pushing out with your fingers.

Pour about ½ cup of olive oil on to the dinner plate and coat each pizza crust liberally. Make sure the entire pizza is bathed in the oil or it will stick and burn. Trust me on this you can’t put too much olive oil on the pizzas. Stack the oiled pizzas on a tray and take them out to the grill.

Ready for grilling!
Place one or two oiled pizza crusts on the hottest part of the grill. Watch them carefully! After about a minute the bottom of the crust will begin to bubble. Flip it over cook the other side. It may take less than a minute for the second side.

When both sides are finished, move the crust to the higher or cooler part of the grill. Add your toppings. Cheese goes on first so it will melt, then veggies and sauce. Once your toppings are on you can put one or two more pizza crusts on the hottest part of the grill. After your first few pizzas you may need to put the lid on the empty grill to bring the temperature back up. Watch everything closely and move quickly. Timing is important since everything cooks so quickly.

Practice makes perfect, so don’t worry if you burn a few. Once you try this once or twice you may find tricks that work for you. I like to add three bricks to the cooler side of my Weber kettle charcoal grill as it’s heating up. I can put the pizza crusts on the bricks until the toppings melt, and there is little chance of the pizza burning. A great idea is to make more pizza crusts than you can use and freeze a few. Add some toppings, bake for a bit and you’ll have something much tastier than Totino’s can put in a box.

Carmelized Balsamic Onions

4 large onions
4 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Slice the onions into rings and separate.

Take your largest, heavy, non-stick frying pan and heat it on med heat for about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to med/low

Place all the onions in the pan and drizzle with the Balsamic Vinegar. Do not cover the pan. Every 8 to 10 minutes toss the onions to coat them with the vinegar.

It may take an hour for the onion to soften and carmelize – don’t rush it.

Pizza Dough

Makes 1- 14 inch regular crust or 1- 10 or 12 inch thick crust

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup warm water (approx. 110 degrees)
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
extra olive oil for bowl and cornmeal to prepare pizza pan

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and let stand until it foams, about 10 minutes.

In a food processor, bread machine or by hand, combine flour, salt, and 1 tsp olive oil. Slowly mix in yeast mixture and knead.

Coat the interior of a large mixing bowl with some olive oil. Bowl should be thoroughly coated but no olive oil should be left to pool in the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. (Saran Wrap Quick Covers are terrific for this!) Put bowl in a warm place and let rise for 50 minutes to 1 hr.

Roll crust out on lightly floured surface or hand toss if you’re talented. J

Lightly grease pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place crust on pan. Top with sauce, veggies and cheese. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. (You may bake the crust for about 5 minutes before adding toppings, then for about 8 minutes more. This gives you a higher, crisper crust.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Planting Veggies and Tales of Bunnies

Last weekend we started planting the winter garden. I scaled back on the tomatoes this year to grow more things to feed Chopper. In the raised bed Ben planted two Romas, three Sweet 100, and four or five Early Girl tomato plants along with a variety of letttuce. He left plenty of room for next week's seed planting when I'll put in more salad greens, some spinach and and several varieties of radishes.

A & P Nursery at 6129 E. Brown Road in Mesa (480) 396-8800 - stocks a nice supply of herbs. I put chives, parsley, lemon balm and basil in pots and I picked up some spearmint and peppermint for the front garden. I'm hoping it will do well in the front - it gets some late afternoon sun but it will mostly be shaded by the Lantana.

I picked up two lavender plants as an impulse purchase. Gardeners complain about lavender growing everywhere like a weed but I've never had any luck with it. Maybe this is my year.

Working in the yard this weekend brought back memories of a vistor we had back in 2003. Foster brought home a little friend (or a little dinner, depending on how you look at it). I blogged about the incident at East Valley Life and I thought I'd share the story here.

May 2003

This is what the cat dragged in last night ... or more accurately, what I was finally able get away from him!

Most of you have heard my tales of Foster, the cross-eyed cat who came with our house when we bought it back in 2000. Well, spring is here and our own four legged Hanibal Lecter is once again bringing home friends for dinner. Thankfully, this bunny will live to tell the story.

As if my neighbors didn't think I was nuts already - picture this if you will - I was running around my yard in shorts, a tank top and black dress shoes (fastest things I could slip on) for an hour yelling, "Foster, put the bunny down. You've got to drop the bunny. Mommy will trade you cat treats for the little bunny!" And finally - "&%*$#, drop that damn rabbit! " Foster continued sprinting from the front yard to the backyard all while carrying his little buddy by the scruff of the neck. I ran thru the house and yard over and over, chasing them.

In the end I was able to grab the baby rabbit who was amazingly good spirited about his/her adventure. It spent the night in the guest room with a hot water bottle and some kitten milk and will be relocated to the neighborhood church bushes this morning while Foster is locked in the house.

I hope your day had a happy ending too!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Girls

The girls are now 6 months old and quite content with life indoors. They are chock full of energy and personality. HuzBen and I get exhausted just trying to stay out of their way.

Posh is still the shy one but she's been coming out of her shell a lot more. She doesn't like to be picked up and held but she isn't timid about walking across your chest and nuzzling your neck if she wants to be petted. Like her Spice Girl namesake - she loves clothes, specifically she loves laundry and the laundry room. She takes her afternoon naps on the washing machine and more than once I've found her inside it, playing with the coins that are always falling out of Ben's pockets in the wash. Poshy Washy is her latest nickname. A basket of freshly laundered clothing is also a toy box for her. She likes to take out the socks and drag them around the house. She's probably the only cat I've ever had who smells like Tide and Downy.

Danica is still the more feisty of the two and the biggest troublemaker. She prefers the bathroom over the laundry. The bathtub is her own private little sports arena. She carries small items like buttons, milk jug caps and her toys into the bathtub and bats them around as they bounce of the sides of the tub. If we are missing something smaller than a golf ball, we usually find it in the tub.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Beat The Heat Summer Cooking - Cook Once, Get 3 Meals

The sure fire best way to avoid heating up your house in the summer is not to cook at all. Since that's not practical, we try to get at least 3 meals from each cooking session.

This week Safeway has HuzBen's favorite cut of beef, London Broil, on sale for $1.97 per pound. We purchase the largest packages we can find. The Meal #1 will usually be cooked by grilling or pan frying and served with a side of potatoes and a vegetable for dinner.

Meal #2 is a healthy wrap, using the sliced leftover beef to fill a non fat tortilla. Add whatever you like - I stick with 2% cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and fat free sour cream. You can substitute low fat ranch for the sour cream. Yum!

Meal #3 is Huzben's He-Man Salad

Two handfuls of mixed greens
One cup of mixed frozen vegetables
Leftover London Broil
Six fat gloves of garlic
1/4 of bleu cheese crumbles
Ranch dress to taste

1. Place the salad mix in the colander side of a salad spinner. On the bowl side, place the frozen vegetables and cover with warm water to thaw.
2. While that's thawing, peel the garlic and slice the London Broil thin against the grain
3. Put the vegetables with water over the salad and give spin. Transfer to a bowl
4. Slice the garlic thin, or use a garlic slicer on top of the salad. Follow with the bleu cheese and London Broil.
5. Add Ranch, hit it with a few twists of the pepper grinder, then toss. It's ready to rock.

Note from the He-Man himself. . .
This is a man salad, not something you do after a day at the spa. This is way to make leftovers into something that'll power you from lunch until dinner.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Novena to St. Raphael

On the first, eleventh, and twenty first of each month I begin a Novena. Today I started a Novena to St. Raphael. Won't you join me?

Novena To St. Raphael

Glorious Archangel Saint Raphael,
great prince of the heavenly court,
you are illustrious
for your gifts of wisdom and grace.
You are a guide of those who journey
by land or sea or air,
consoler of the afflicted,
and refuge of sinners.
I beg you,
assist me in all my needs
and in all the sufferings of this life,
as once you helped
the young Tobias on his travels.
Because you are the medicine of God,
I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities
of my soul and the ills that afflict my body.
I especially ask of you the favour

(Make your request here...)

and the great grace of purity
to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.


St. Raphael,
of the glorious seven
who stand before the throne of Him
who lives and reigns,
Angel of health,
the Lord has filled your hand
with balm from heaven
to soothe or cure our pains.
Heal or cure the victim of disease.
And guide our steps when doubtful of our ways.



Each year our local Boy Scout troop takes donations for their flag service. For the bargain price of $35.00 they place a flag in front of our house on designated days like Memorial Day, July 4th, Flag Day, etc. The scouts (or usually, a troop dad) will leave the flag in the early morning and then retrieve it just prior to sundown. The troop cares for the flags and stores them in between holidays.

This year the Scouts started putting the flags out to commemorate September 11, 2001. Several homes in our neighborhood (including our house!) have flown our own flags each year on the anniversary but I was especially happy that the big flag was out today.


I couldn't figure out why there was such a mess around Chopper's cage everyday - he's really pretty neat and orderly with his toys and things. He likes to eat his hay - not toss it around.

The real culprit was caught red handed today!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Beat The Heat Summer Cooking - George Foreman Grill

I could kiss George Foreman! We are on our 3rd George Foreman Grill. Not because we had to replace them but because George keeps making them bigger and better. Our current model is the George Foreman Next Grilleration with variable heat settings and 5 removable plates. It includes the grilling plates, waffle plates and a special flat baking plate. It's a great way to make fast and easy healthy meals without using your stove or oven.

The grilling plate is the one we use the most. It's one of the reasons we have been able to change our diet and eat better this year. We make several main dish items on the grill- burgers, chicken, pizza, and fish.

We gave up beef burgers for a lower in fat turkey version (see recipe). The turkey burgers are very mushy in their raw state and need to be cooked from frozen so they stay together. This is no problem on the GF. The burgers have nice grill marks on the outside and are completely cooked on the inside. On the rare occasions we do opt for beef burgers we know we are getting much less fat by making them on the GF.

Boneless chicken breasts are probably my favorite thing to cook in the GF. You can grill them plain with a bit of seasoning, bbq sauce, or go all out with an endless variety of marinades (see recipes). I grill a large batch of chicken breasts when they are on sale then dice and freeze them on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet and store in a Ziploc freezer bag. I use them in chicken soft tacos, casseroles, pasta salads or on BBQ chicken pizzas.

Mini pizzas are a snap with the baking plate. I make my own whole wheat pizza crust but store bought is just fine. Simply roll out a thin piece of the dough to fit the baking plate and grill until it just starts to brown. Add toppings and sauce and close the lid until the cheese is melted and bubbly. If you like grilled veggies - toss your favorite veggies in oil and grill them as well - then use them to top your pizza.

Fish isn't exactly a favorite at our house but we try to eat it once a month for the health benefits. It's so easy - I buy a frozen fillet at Trader Joe's, thaw it and slather it with olive oil mayonaise. Sprinkle it with lemon pepper or your favorite fish seasoning and grill it.

Some people complain about cleaning the George Foreman Grill but I've never had a problem. As soon as I'm done cooking I unplug the grill and wet a few sheets of paper towels. Place the wet paper towels in the (still hot) grill. In about 20 minutes the grill will be cool enough to handle and any stuck on food has been steamed loose. Clean with a sponge or use a dish brush that's safe for non-stick surfaces.

All George Foreman Grills come with a few recipes in the instruction booklet. There are more recipes on Salton's website and in George Foreman's Indoor Grilling Made Easy. I love Steve Reichlen's book The Barbecue! Bible. I just spotted his book Indoor! Grilling at and added it to my Amazon Wish List. Yahoo groups also has a group of GF fans who exchange tips and recipes.

Turkey Burgers

Turkey Burgers

1 1/4 lbs lean ground turkey (or a mixture of ground turkey and ground chicken)
2/3 cup fat free ricotta cheese
1/4 cup diced sweet onions
1/2 cup grated granny smith apple
3 cloves grlic, minced
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients until blended. Shape 4 or 5 patties and freeze with 2 layers of waxed paper in between burgers. For best results - cook straight from the freezer. On the George Foreman Grill, grill on medium for 7 minutes. To pan fry, coat pan with 1/2 tsp olive oil and fry 6 mins per side.

Marinades - Chicken

These are my variations of the "Dump Chicken" recipes that have been on the web for years. Each marinade can be "dumped" into a one gallon freezer bag with 4-8 pieces of boneless chicken breast. You can marinade for a few hours or overnight, or you can freeze the chicken in the marinade for later use. I like to cook them on my George Foreman Grill, but you can also make them on a bbq grill outdoors or in the oven. (For oven - Place entire contents of bag in a 9x12 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 mins.)


1 cup bbq sauce of your choice
1/4 cup honey


2 garlic cloves, Crushed
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated


2/3 cup apricot preserves
1 1/2 cups russian dressing
1 pkg dry onion soup mix


1/4 cup melted butter
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey


1 1/2 tbsp Honey
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Minced Ginger
juice from 1/2 fresh lime
1/4 cup sliced green onions


2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp dijon mustard
juice from 1/2 fresh lemon

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Beat The Heat Summer Cooking - Pressure Cooking

There's no escaping the fact that summer time in the Valley of the Sun is pretty brutal. Cooking is not on my list of fun things to do when it's over 100 degrees. We have a very small house and just one pan on the stove heats up the kitchen and living room and makes things very uncomfortable. I had to look for alternative methods of cooking which could keep the house cool but still be economical and work with my philosophy of getting multiple meals out of each session in the kitchen. Over the next 2 weeks I'm going to let you in on my little secrets to make meal preparation easier in the summer months.

The fastest way to get a meal on the table (after the microwave) is the pressure cooker. Forget the horror stories of the past, today's pressure cookers are safe and easy. While the stovetop variety is still popular, I prefer my electric 8 quart Cook's Essentials PC from QVC. It's a real work horse. We use it for the obvious things like pot roast, stew, and soup, but it also makes fantastic chicken stock. I can boil pasta in my PC a lot faster than I can on my stove top. If you have a stand mixer you can have mashed potatoes from scratch on the table in less than 15 minutes.

Pressure cookers work wonders with less expensive cuts of meat. If there is a good sale, I'll buy the biggest roast I can find and make Cola Pot Roast (see below). We can get one dinner, 2 lunches and a freezer meal out of it. If the roast is really large, I will cut off a portion of the meat and use a different method of seasoning. Usually I'll take the extra portion and coat it with BBQ sauce or even extra Taco Bell mild sauce. Then I'll wrap that portion of meat in foil and add it to the pressure cooker as well. That way I'll have a main dish and and extra portion on the side for a BBQ sandwich or meat for tacos. Another bonus is that you can have very flavorful food without the addition of fats.

Every pressure cooker is different and you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions. For general information, recipes, and opinions on which pressure cooker to purchase, Miss Vickie's is the website to visit. She just celebrated 10 years on the Internet and her book Miss Vickie's Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes is a huge sucess. Of course, you can't mention pressure cooker cookbooks without mentioning Lorna Sass and her latest Pressure Perfect.

Yahoo has a terrific pressure cooker group where you can ask questions, get helpful hints and exchange recipes.

My favorite recipes. . .

Cola Pot Roast

(also works well in the crockpot)

3-4 pounds beef roast
4 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package dry brown gravy mix
1/4 cup water
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 can cream of mushroom soup
10 ounces cola

Brown roast in 2 tbs olive oil before cooking. Place all ingredients in pressure cooker and cook on high pressure (15lbs of pressure) for 11 minutes per pound of beef. Use natural release method.

Leanna's Pot Roast

3-4 lb beef roast
4 carrots, chopped
1 large sweet onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 can beef stock
1 cup water
2 tbsp maple syrup

Brown roast in 2 tbs olive oil before cooking. Place all ingredients except maple syrup in pressure cooker. Drizzle beef with maple syrup and cook on high pressure (15lbs of pressure) for 11 minutes per pound of beef. Use quick release method. Make a paste of water and flour and use it to thicken the gravy.

Leanna's Loaded Potatoes

4-5 lbs potatoes, quartered (works with reds, large baking potatoes or yukon gold)
1 1/2 cups water

Cook potatoes on high pressure (15lbs) for 8 minutes. Use quick release method. Place potatoes in a heat proof bowl or use stand mixer to whip. Add the following-

1 cup fat free sour cream
1 pkg ranch dressing mix
2 cups low fat cheddar cheese, grated
3 strips turkey bacon, cooked and cut up with kitchen shears
1/4 cup chopped green onions