Friday, November 21, 2008

Chopper's BunSpace

Yes, Chopper was a bit jealous of our MySpace and Facebook pages so we got him his own. I'm sure the cats will be complaining tomorrow that they feel left out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Slow Cooker Apple Crisp

8-10 medium apples (I used Granny Smith and Honey Crisp)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 T. grated ginger root
1/2 t grated fresh nutmeg (makes all the difference)
3/4 cup plus 1 T. butter
(optional) 1/2 t. Penzey's French Four Spice*

Grease slow cooker with 1 T. of butter and fill with apple slices. *Optional - Sprinkle apples with Penzey's French Four Spice and toss gently to coat.

In a mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, spices and butter. Distribute over the apple slices and press down lightly.

Cooking time will vary according to your slow coker. For an older model with a lower overall temperture, cook on high for 3-4 hours. I find that setting makes the apples mushy so I generally set my slow cooker to medium and cook for 3 hours.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

*Penzey's French Four Spice is a blend of Muntok white pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and powedered cloves. I find it gives just a little zing to the apples. You can order it online or check out their store in Scottsdale.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ugly Chair Becomes A Swan

Time to talk about Ugly Chair. Ugly Chair has been a fixture at our house for years. We found it beside an empty lot in downtown Mesa more years ago than I care to remember. It was peeking out of a big pile of junk that someone illegally dumped. We were driving by in the truck and I instantly recognized the sound bone structure and limitless potential in Ugly Chair. Ok, really - we just needed a chair for the porch where HuzBen could sit smoke his ciggies away from my asthmatic lungs. It fit our main criteria of not costing anything. I wanted to do the "green" thing by recycling someone else's junk. We took it home.

Ugly Chair spent the last several years going back and forth between the yard and the porch, depending on the weather and the need for space. It got to be sort of a joke that I never seemed to get around to refurbishing Ugly Chair. As rough on the eyes as the chair was, my husband put cardboard and newspapers on the seat, covered it with an old blanket and spent many confortable hours in Ugly Chair while reading on the porch.

When my mother would visit from New Jersey I would tell her about my grand plans to re-do the chair and make it presentable. Bless her heart my mother never has a cross word to say about anything but her eyes were saying "Seriously? Hello! Put that thing out at the curb where it belongs!" In direct contrast, my father actually said on many occasions, "Seriously? Hello! Put that thing out at the curb where it belongs!" And at least once he tried to do just that when I wasn't looking. If it wasn't for our superb neighborhood block watch I'm sure he would have snuck it off to the dump while I was in NYC.

That's all behind us now because this week Ugly Chair had it's makeover. I took a Home Depot gift certificate I'd been saving and I purchased some almond colored spray paint. Joann's had leather beading cord that I used to replace the leather strips that had rotted away. The folks at Mesa Sales helped me pick out a foam cushion and some marine grade thread for the seat and the pillow. The vinyl was found at a steal for 80% off when Hancock's closed a few months ago.

Ugly Chair is now back on the porch and HuzBen and the kitties are thriled with the makeover. While no one is going to mistake it for being redone by a professional, I think Ugly Chair approves.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Adventures in BBQ'ing

Yesterday afternoon I was planning to make my Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwiches for Sunday dinner. It was a beautiful day so I thought we'd eat outside and take advantage of the fantastic fall weather.

My brother gave us a nice Charbroil grill last summer but it's a lot of grill for just the two of us. When I do use it, I like to make as much food as possible so I am not wasting propane. Safeway had chicken quarters for 88 cents a pound this week. I bought a bunch so I decided to put those on the grill first with some BBQ sauce and save them for dinner later in the week and freeze the rest. When that chicken was nearly done I was planning to add the boneless chicken breasts for the sandwiches. Yes, I thought I was Super Time Management Frugal Grilling Woman! Nothing could stop me from eating well on a budget! What's the phrase? Pride goeth before the fall?

The chicken quarters had been on the grill for 15 minutes and I took some things outside to set the table. I could hear that the grill was starting to flame up from the chicken fat so I grabbed a water bottle to tame the flames. That's where the insanity began.

Unknown to me, the back wheel on the grill had become loose. When I opened the grill the back wheel fell off and the grill tipped over backwards. When the grill hit the ground, blazing chicken quarters bounced up and went flying in every direction. That in turn set the grass on fire. The fire was also still going inside the open grill itself and flames were about 18 inches high.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I have not one but two jumbo propane tanks? One is attached to the grill left side and the other is stored off to the right. Not exactly what you want to have around when you've just flipped over your grill and set your yard on fire.

Thank God, the hose was only a few feet away since I'd been watering the potted herbs only hours before the calamity. I put out the fire as I yelled for HuzBen who has just woke up from a nap. Nothing like walking up to your shrieking wife and your yard being incinerated. (I'm sure he was saying to himself, "Yipee, less grass to cut!")

HuzBen held the hose as I turned off the propane valve and then we got the grill back upright. We scooped up the chicken flambe and mud caked utensils that went sailing several feet away when the grill hit the ground.

In the end no one was hurt and the house and yard are fine. I am very thankful it was the back wheel and not the front wheel or the grill would have tipped over on me. Nothing was broken and even the grill is fine, except for the piece of plastic flower pot that was on the ground and is now melted to the back of the lid. We did lose the chicken quarters but I played it safe and cooked the boneless chicken breasts on the stove and dinner wasn't even 5 minutes later. We still ate outside and dinner was wonderful. The recipe and an actual picture of last night's dinner are here. I love the smell of freshly torched grass in the evening.

So much for another day in the East Valley!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Honey Mustard Sauce and Balsamic Vinegar Carmelized Onions

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Honey Mustard Sauce
And Balsamic Vinegar Onions

For Chicken-

Pound 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts until they are of even thickness. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt and paprika. Place directly on grill grate and cook until they are done.

Serve on a large toasted bun with Honey Mustard Sauce and Carmelized Balsamic Onions.

Honey Mustard Sauce

2 parts mayonnaise
1 part Dijon mustard
1 part honey

Balsamic Vinegar Carmelized Onions

2 large onions
2 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.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Rosaries For Life

Rosaries For Life is starting a 72 day Novena on November 10th. It will end on January 20th, Inauguration Day. The recent 40 Days for Life campaign showed just how much prayer can accomplish. Think of what 68,000,000 rosaries could do . . .

The following is from their blog - please go there and sign up to pray for our country.

"There are five specific intentions. You may specifically pray a specific mystery for a specific intention, or simply pray the whole rosary for all of the intentions. If possible, pray the rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The intentions are these:

* For the triumph of the Culture of Life in the United States of America.

* For President-elect Obama, and for all of the leaders of the United States of America, that they will be led personally to Jesus Christ and His truth, and that they will lead our country in a positive direction. Or in other words, as Archbishop Wuerl said, “That our nation’s new leaders be guided in their decisions with wisdom and compassion and at the heart of all of their decisions may there be a deep respect for and commitment to the sanctity and dignity of all human life and support for the most vulnerable among us.”

* For the hearts, minds and SOULS of the American people, that they will be turned back towards Jesus Christ and the “least of His brethren”.

* For a renewal of the virtues of purity and self-control, especially among our youth.

* In reparation for the scourges of abortion, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, euthanasia, cloning, artificial contraception, and all manifestations of the Culture of Death, and especially in reparation for the support and/or complacency that we as American Catholics have shown to these evils.

I Timothy 2:1-2 -First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intecessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men - for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly, and respectful in every way.

Ephesians 6:11-13 - Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Weight Loss Update and New Find at Fry's

November of 2007 is when I started eating healthier and minding my portions in an effort to lose weight. As of yesterday I am down 41 lbs over the last 12 months. Yea me!

Lately I have been battling the midday munchies because they are giving us so many breaks during the training class I am in at work. (Not that I'm complaining!) Don't even ask me about what happened to the remaining Halloween candy. . .

I finally found something that keeps me away from the snack machines and tastes much better than those nasty protein bars I've been eating. Chex Mix Bars! Chex Mix or any cereal for that matter is just not my thing, so I was a bit skeptical. They're actually really good. I've been keeping them at my desk to curb my visits to the vending machines at work. They fill the need when that 3pm chocolate craving hits.

The "Turtle" flavor is Chex Mix (cereal with pieces of pretzels and peanuts) mixed with chocolate and caramel. The best part is that each bar has only 130 calories (30 from fat) 4 grams of fiber (or 18% of the recommended allowance for the whole day), 26g of carbs and zero cholesterol. There are no sat fats or trans fats.

Now, compare that to your average serving of vending machine Snickers bar that I was eating - 271 calories, 122 calories from fat, 5.2g of sat fat, 34.5g of carbs and only 1.3 g of fiber.

Chex Mix Bars also come in a Chocolate Chunk favor which DH already stole from our pantry to keep at his desk so I haven't tried them yet.

If you would like me to email you a coupon for Chex Mix Bars, please let me know via a reply to this post. DH just bought a few boxes for $1.00 per box (after $1.50 off coupon) on sale at Fry's/Kroger last week. Killer deal!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

A Prayer For Our Nation As We Prepare To Elect Our Leaders

O God, we acknowledge you today as Lord,
Not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.

We thank you for the privilege
Of being able to organize ourselves politically
And of knowing that political loyalty
Does not have to mean disloyalty to you.

We thank you for your law,
Which our Founding Fathers acknowledged
And recognized as higher than any human law.

We thank you for the opportunity that this election year puts before us,
To exercise our solemn duty not only to vote,
But to influence countless others to vote,
And to vote correctly.

Lord, we pray that your people may be awakened.
Let them realize that while politics is not their salvation,
Their response to you requires that they be politically active.

Awaken your people to know that they are not called to be a sect fleeing the world
But rather a community of faith renewing the world.

Awaken them that the same hands lifted up to you in prayer
Are the hands that pull the lever in the voting booth;
That the same eyes that read your Word
Are the eyes that read the names on the ballot,
And that they do not cease to be Christians
When they enter the voting booth.

Awaken your people to a commitment to justice
To the sanctity of marriage and the family,
To the dignity of each individual human life,
And to the truth that human rights begin when human lives begin,
And not one moment later.

Lord, we rejoice today
That we are citizens of your kingdom.

May that make us all the more committed
To being faithful citizens on earth.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Food Storage - Where do I start?

Food Storage - Where do I start?

Food Storage has always been a common topic among East Valley women and not only at the local LDS churches. The Y2K scare served as preparation for a post 9/11 world where the Red Cross and the Office of Homeland Security are now preaching preparedness on television commercials.

There are many websites and message boards devoted to food storage and how to prepare for emergencies. One look at any food storage chart is enough to set a budget minded person's head spinning. It's best to just take a deep breath and remember that Rome wasn't built in a day. If you purchase things over time it really won't be the daunting (and expensive) task that it seems.

Have a plan -

Find a food storage plan list on the Internet and edit it to suit the needs of your family. Keep in mind that the best thing you can do is store what you eat and eat what you store.

Set your budget-

Not everyone can afford to pay thousands of dollars for the ready-made food storage kits available at places like Walton Feed and Be Believe it or not, if you are organized you can end up with a comprehensive food storage supply for only a small weekly cash investment.

One of the more popular strategies for building food storage is the ten dollar per week method. This is a great place to start but I honestly don't think anyone could live off these items for long. How many times a week can you endure tuna casserole? Still, this is a great base for your plan.

Need a bit more variety in your meals?

Luckily for us, Valley residents enjoy the benefit of having a great food storage purveyor on nearly every corner. Yes, that's right - it's Walgreen's!

The Walgreen's supplement in your Sunday newspaper has a wealth of items that no food storage supply should be without. Last week’s sale included several three for a dollar items; Jiffy Mixes, snack size Pringles, canned pineapple and sardines. Canned mushrooms were a bargain at two for a dollar. Always check the date on canned goods and don't get anything that expires in less than 2 years.

Our personal favorite is the one-pound, cooked, boneless, canned hams. They need no refrigeration until you open them and one ham is perfect for two people. We use them for sandwiches (both hot and cold), with cheese and broccoli as a baked potato topping, or diced and mixed into mac and cheese. The possibilities are endless.

The various dollar stores around the East Valley are another great source of non perishable items but you need to check your labels carefully! Stick to good that are from the U.S.A. Watch exparation dates and don't purchase anything dented.

Invest in a few "back to basics" cookbook or cookbook specifically written with food storage in mind. My favorite is Cookin' with Home Storage, available at Amazon. You can find many articles and recipes on the web, but be sure and print them and get them into a folder or binder. You might need them when there is no electricity and internet access is not available. Be sure to include recipes that can be made over an open fire, in a dutch oven, or on a BBQ grill in case of a power failure. Think about alternative cooking vessels as well. Non stick teflon pans and glass casserole dishes will not work in a camp fire or BBQ grill. Invest in some cast iron pans and a cast iron dutch oven. You can get these at most camping supply stores and some military surplus stores like Larada's.

With instability of the economy, rising food costs, and the ever present possibility of another terrorist attack, the important thing is to start building a food storage plan now. You don't need to buy everything in one week but you do need to have a plan and stick to it.

Happy Birthday Chopper!

It's not exactly his birthday - we don't have any idea when he was born or how old he is. . . but this week it's one year from the day I found him in the front yard, lost and scared. Thankfully the family who mistreated him (according to the neighbors) never came looking for him and we've had him ever since. He'll always be our little Halloween bunny!