Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Last Frontier

by Andrew Peterson

Why don't the mountains make me cry no more?
They don't sing the way they did before
They're just piles of stone
As dead as bones
Like corpses on a field of war
And they just don't make me cry no more

And the highway's like an old sad song
People moving through their lives alone
On the run from grace
From place to place
Like fugitives without a home
And the highway's like an old sad song

And my heart is black as coal
It's been mined and there ain't no gold
It's so dark in there
But I don't care
I will lay down in the this empty hole
Where my heart is black as coal

And oh, there is nowhere left to go from here
I have fallen past the last frontier
But at the bottom of this well I hear you breathing

Love below me
Love around me
Love above me
Love has found me
Love has found me here

So lay me down
Oh, lay me down in a field of golden
Lay me down
Oh, lay me down in a field of golden
Lay me down
Oh, lay me down in a field of gold and green

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I like lists. I make to-do lists often, sometimes too often. They tend to be scattered around the house, depending on the topic. I might have one list for class planning (which could be floating around the living room or kitchen, or it could be in my notebook where it really belongs), one list for meal planning (which probably would be on the fridge on a magnetic notepad), and one list for cleaning and errands (which might be on the fridge but might not). Sometimes these help me, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there are too many of them and I lose track of them. Sometimes it seems that instead of simplifying my life I'm trying to confuse myself as much as possible.

Rabbit trail: Does anyone else write things down on a to-do list after the fact, just so you can check them off? I do. I love the feeling of accomplishment, especially on days when it seems like I didn't do very much.

I happened to be in Michael's craft store on an unrelated errand (the quest for a non-Christmas wreath for the front door, that isn't too expensive and won't be destroyed by moisture leaking in through the storm continues) the other week and looked through the "dollar" bins. I found these fantastic magnetic pads.

They have the days of the week listed on top of very long columns. They have several magnets on the back, instead of just one. They are about the size of a half sheet of paper and fit perfectly on the side of my fridge right where I can see them. They were $1.50 each and are very thick for this type of pad.

I've been using the pad for meal-planning and to-do lists, so far. The grocery/errand lists are still elsewhere, since I tear those off when I leave the house to run errands. But this has helped me with my meal-planning, at the very least. There is one place with all the days listed. It looks fairly neat. I don't have to list the days of the week myself. They are right there in front of me, so I am more likely to fill them out ahead of time instead of flying by the seat of my pants. This doesn't mean I'm not changing the plan often, and some days you can see arrows and circles showing that I moved a meal, but it helps me to have some idea of what I'm cooking ahead of time. One note on the meal-planning: I cook for leftovers often, so I like to write the leftovers' "deadline" ("eat by this date or suffer the consequences", a.k.a. to avoid waste and food poisoning) next to a meal, because I often have a hard time remembering a few days later what day I actually cooked something (usually if it wasn't planned).

So that's my nifty new trick. We'll see if it helps me stay on track. So far I'm doing fairly well.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Crockpot Lemon Garlic Chicken

2 lb boneless skinless chicken
1 1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 t. fresh parsley (or 1/3 to 1/2 amount dried)
2 T butter
1/4 c. water
4 T lemon juice
4 cloves minced garlic
2 t. chicken bouillon

Wash and dry chicken. Combine oregano, salt and pepper, sprinkle and pat into chicken. Brown on both sides on the stove top (the original recipe says in butter, but I used olive oil cooking spray). Transfer to the crock pot. Add water, lemon juice, bouillon, garlic and parsley to pan, scrape the bottom and bring to a boil. Pour into the crock pot. Cook on high 2 1/2-3 hours or low 5-6. I used chicken breasts and cooked on low and this was too long, but legs/thighs would need more time. Baste during cooking a couple times. Serve with rice or fettuccine (or another noodle, or quinoa, or even mashed potatoes). As usual, I estimated the amounts of spices and garlic. The amounts above are from the original recipe, and may or may not be the amounts I used.

I made this as a company meal and because of that I served it with fettuccine and Parmesan cheese. It was nice to have the main course in the crock pot and ready to go so I just needed to worry about the pasta and the vegetable (roasted asparagus). I tend to avoid recipes that make you dirty up a pan before putting the food in the crock pot (the whole point of the crock pot is to make it easy, so why would you create more dishwashing for yourself?), but this was very good and had lots of flavor. Enjoy!
(I would give credit, but I found it somewhere online a while ago and I can't remember where.)
Edit: Found it here!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Status report

I just saw the first crocuses! I hope they aren't burned by frost, though it looks like they could tomorrow.

I used my new immersion blender for the first time this morning and I love it!

- Ham~ already cooked, meal-sized amount from the freezer
- Sweet potatoes~ in the microwave. I know some people don't like to microwave things, which I don't really understand anyway, but for potatoes I just can't/won't justify running the oven for 45 minutes or so when I could cook them in less than 10 in the microwave!
- Cauliflower~ method of cooking to be determined.

We're headed to Grove City for the Vision and Values conference in April.

I ate red peppers and cauliflower yesterday afternoon, so today I can have ice cream, right?

And... I'd better get going if I'm going to meet my self-imposed class planning goal for today.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Experimental Cobbler

We threw together some last minute family plans last night, so I found out I had about one hour to make a dessert. I started rummaging through cookbooks and the freezer. I was thinking pineapple upside down cake, but then nixed it because of too much sugar. I finally pulled a bag of frozen pears and a bag of frozen fresh cranberries out of the freezer. I figured, even though there has to be quite a bit of sugar because of the cranberries, that at least it's mostly fruit. I had made a cranberry pear pie last year and it turned out well. I combined that idea with my standard cobbler/crisp topping and this is what I came up with:

1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. of salt
3 cups of frozen (thawed) pears, peeled and sliced
1 12 oz bag of frozen (partially thawed) whole fresh cranberries
~Combine first four filling ingredients. Add fruit, combine, and let sit while you mix up the topping.

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
~Combine all ingredients.

Pour filling in a greased (though I'm not sure that's really necessary) 9 by 13 pan. Spread topping over it and pat down. Mine was a little more crumbly than it is when I make the typical apple crisp with this topping, but I added a little extra flour. It worked out well with this filling, I think, and it made it more like a crumb topping.

Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes. I was sort of waiting on the topping to brown a little, but I used dark brown sugar and whole wheat flour, so I couldn't really tell. Mine was probably in for at least 45 minutes, maybe closer to an hour, but some of the ingredients were still a little cold and it was interrupted for a short car trip as well.

This was really good and I think everyone liked it. I was a little worried about the amount of ginger I used, since the filling tasted very gingery when uncooked. But once it was all put together and baked it was much more subtle. This wasn't over-sweet, but I thought it was about right. The original pie recipe included some craisins, so I increased the sugar in the filling a little to compensate. I also didn't include the lemon zest that recipe listed. Mine had more cranberries than the original was well.

It was fun to throw something together based on what I knew and could pull out of the freezer and pantry. Sort of like on Chopped....OK, maybe not so much like that. (By the way, that is a fun show! It's so much better than most reality TV.) If you make this, no guarantees since I only made it once. But it turned out well that time for me.